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Thread: grammar test

  1. #11
    alienvoord is offline Member
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    Re: grammar test

    for those who are interested

    It isn't actually the subjunctive. People often call the "were" of "I wish I were" subjunctive, but that term is much better used (as in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language) for the construction with "be" seen in "I demand that it be done." The "were" form is often wrongly called a past subjunctive, but of course "it were done" is not a past tense of "it be done". The difference between the two is that the subjunctive construction occurs with any verb: "I demand that this cease" is a subjunctive (notice "this cease", not "this ceases"). The relic form in "I were" is only available for "be". For all other verbs you use the preterite: "I wish I went to New York more often." The Cambridge Grammar calls the "were" form the irrealis form. It is surviving robustly in expressions like "if I were you", but even there it has a universally accepted alternate "if I was you", and there is no semantic distinction there to preserve.
    Whether "if I was" and "if I were" are interchangeable for all speakers is unclear. They are for me. However, the argument about the irrealis makes a lot of sense.
    Last edited by alienvoord; 19-Nov-2006 at 20:05.

  2. #12
    Johnny's Avatar
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    Re: grammar test

    Just say it in the way that most native speakers say is not a wrong way.

    If they say, If I were you, I would give it a whirl. We should say If I were you.

  3. #13
    alienvoord is offline Member
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    Re: grammar test

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny View Post
    Just say it in the way that most native speakers say is not a wrong way.

    If they say, If I were you, I would give it a whirl. We should say If I were you.
    According to The Oxford Companion to the English Language, "were" is usually used in "if I were you." But in other cases it has been replaced by "was", bringing it in line with other verbs, where the simple past tense is used for expressing hypotheses about the past and future, eg "if I only knew how."

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    Re: grammar test

    Yes, i agree that we should say as how the native said it.In MALAYSIA, it is common to say If i were you instead of If I was u..If i were you sounds better

  5. #15
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    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Re: grammar test

    Quote Originally Posted by alienvoord View Post
    According to The Oxford Companion to the English Language, "were" is usually used in "if I were you." But in other cases it has been replaced by "was", bringing it in line with other verbs, where the simple past tense is used for expressing hypotheses about the past and future, eg "if I only knew how."
    The "knew" in "if I only knew how" is in the subjunctive. It is just not distinguishable in form from the indicative.

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