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Joined: April 11, 2017
Comments posted: 2
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Henry and one or two others have summed it up fairly well. The "were" used in place of "was" in some English conditionals is a relic of the Old English subjunctive. It preserves no semantic distinction in Modern English and can be dropped. It is still quite frequently used in a number of constructions, though, and has more or less taken on the status of a fixed expression or idiom. The notion that it is not used as often as it used to be isn't supported by a quick check of corpora I have access to.

stuart1 April 11, 2017, 2:46am

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