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Thread: was/were

  1. #1
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default was/were

    Example:
    If I were a bird, I would fly to you.

    (although I know today 'was' instead of 'were' is often used in if-subjunctive clauses)

    Now what about this 'was' in bold? is it possible to replace with 'were'?

    If you were asked to think of the greatest human invention in history, what would it be? TV? Computers? Mobile phones? Whatever the list was, language wouldn't come first, would it?
    Last edited by Taka; 21-Nov-2011 at 16:06.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: was/were

    Apples and oranges, Taka.

    If you were asked to think of the greatest human invention in history, what would it be? TV? Computers? Mobile phones? Whatever your thoughts were, language wouldn't come first, would it?

    If you were asked to make a list of the greatest human invention in history, what would it be? TV? Computers? Mobile phones? Whatever the items on your list were, language wouldn't come first, would it?

    Your example of: "If you were asked to think of the greatest human invention in history, what would it be? TV? Computers? Mobile phones? Whatever the list was, language wouldn't come first, would it?", is something that you will probably hear spoken but it's still technically not good writing and not good English.

    John
    Last edited by JohnParis; 21-Nov-2011 at 16:25. Reason: bolding

  3. #3
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: was/were

    Thanks for the reply, but that's not the point of my question. Let's take different examples:

    ・If it were/was so, he would have to work harder.
    ・Even if it were/was so, he would still have to work harder.


    Here, in the adverbial subjunctive clauses, 'be' could be 'were'. Then I wonder if 'were' is also possible here:

    ・Whatever it were/No matter what it were, he would have to work harder.
    ・Whoever he were/No matter who he were, I would still remain true to myself.


    Do you think it's possible?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: was/were

    Do you think it's possible?

    ・Whatever it were/No matter what it were, he would have to work harder.
    ・Whoever he were/No matter who he were, I would still remain true to myself.


    No, it is not possible or acceptable.
    Only "was" is acceptable as used in the examples you have given above.

  5. #5
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: was/were

    But if you check here, there are many examples of 'whatever it were' in published books:

    "whatever it were" - Google

    What's going on?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: was/were

    Well the first few of the quotations in the google list (I looked at only a few) were all from books written over a couple of centuries or more ago, That's what's going on.

    The Corpus of Contemporary American has no citations for whoever he/she were, and just one for whatever it were. I think that one is a mistake anyway.

    The Corpus of Historical American has no citations for whoever he/she were, and six for whatever it were - that last one being written in 1870

  7. #7
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: was/were

    I've heard that those weres used in if-clauses or 'wish that X were...' are the remains of old English.

    Isn't it that some of such weres are still used today in some expressions but some aren't?

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