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Thread: Sub-verb

  1. #1
    2010's Avatar
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    Default Sub-verb

    Need assistance.

    Why do we say "If I were you, I would have...

    Why don't we say "If I was you, I would have...

    Please explain this rule. Your help is very much appreciated.

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    Default Re: Sub-verb

    2010,
    The "were" in "If I were you" is hypothetical, that is, untrue. It means that the speaker is talking about another, potential universe - one that exists only in his mind. It's imaginary. A lot of native speakers say "If I was you...", when they're not speaking carefully.
    You asked a good question. You see things.

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    Default Re: Sub-verb

    Quote Originally Posted by gabber View Post
    2010,
    The "were" in "If I were you" is hypothetical, that is, untrue. It means that the speaker is talking about another, potential universe - one that exists only in his mind. It's imaginary. A lot of native speakers say "If I was you...", when they're not speaking carefully.
    You asked a good question. You see things.
    Thank you Gabber!

    Please tell me if the usage of this sentence is grammatically correct!

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Sub-verb

    'If I were' is always correct and is preferred in formal usage. Many native speakers do use 'If I was', but it is still regarded as an error by some, so it is better to play safe and use 'If I were'.

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    Default Re: Sub-verb

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    'If I were' is always correct and is preferred in formal usage. Many native speakers do use 'If I was', but it is still regarded as an error by some, so it is better to play safe and use 'If I were'.
    Thank you Tdol!

    What I understand is that there isn't a rule for this and it has been followed by everyone and therefore it sounds correct!

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    Default Re: Sub-verb

    Quote Originally Posted by 2010 View Post
    Thank you Tdol!

    What I understand is that there isn't a rule for this and it has been followed by everyone and therefore it sounds correct!
    What is important here is that the expression is well understood in the English-speaking community. As gabber explained, it is about a hypothetical situation. If I say (for example) "I wouldn't do that if I were you" it is understood as a warning. (Perhaps the person is about to pet a strange dog.)


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    Default Re: Sub-verb

    This is called the subjunctive.

    You can read more about it in many places, including here: Subjunctive Mood

    There certainly are rules -- even rules that native speakers don't understand very well!
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    sarat_106 is offline Key Member
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    Exclamation Re: Sub-verb

    Quote Originally Posted by 2010 View Post
    Need assistance.

    Why do we say "If I were you, I would have...

    Please explain this rule. Your help is very much appreciated.
    Your example is a conditional sentence having two clauses; (1) The if clause (If I were you)and The main clause (I would have…). The clause introduced by “if” may contain either a past subjunctive verb (if I were going) or an indicative verb (if I was going), depending on the intended meaning. Here you have a past subjunctive.

    According to the traditional rule, the subjunctive should be used to describe an occurrence that is presupposed to be contrary to fact, as in:
    If I were ten years younger, I would have definitely fallen in love with this beautiful lady.
    If I were you, I would have given up smoking
    The verb of the main clause in such a sentence must then contain the modal verb would or (less frequently) should. You have no choice over the main verb.
    If you say: If I were you, I could have given up smoking. It is wrong.

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    Default Re: Sub-verb

    Quote Originally Posted by sarat_106 View Post
    Your example is a conditional sentence having two clauses; (1) The if clause (If I were you)and The main clause (I would have…). The clause introduced by “if” may contain either a past subjunctive verb (if I were going) or an indicative verb (if I was going), depending on the intended meaning. Here you have a past subjunctive.

    According to the traditional rule, the subjunctive should be used to describe an occurrence that is presupposed to be contrary to fact, as in:
    If I were ten years younger, I would have definitely fallen in love with this beautiful lady.
    If I were you, I would have given up smoking
    The verb of the main clause in such a sentence must then contain the modal verb would or (less frequently) should. You have no choice over the main verb.
    If you say: If I were you, I could have given up smoking. It is wrong.
    What about pronouns such as "if it were", "If she were", and "if he were"? Does the same rule apply?
    How about "wish it were..."?

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    Default Re: Sub-verb

    Yes, the subjunctive "were" applies to third-person singular as well as first-person singular. (You can't hear it in second person singular or the plural forms, because it's the same word either way.)
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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