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  1. #1
    eslpartyboy is offline Newbie
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    Question Everybody was \ Everybody were

    Hi Guys,

    What would the world be like if everybody was \ were as smart as Einstein?

    Which is correct in this context, was or were?

    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    jlinger is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Everybody was \ Everybody were

    Everybody is a compound of "every" and "body." If you think of it that way, and substitute some other noun for "body" it will be clear which is correct.

    Compare these:

    Every dog has his day.
    Every dog have his day.

    Every man is happy.
    Every man are happy.

    Every apple was eaten.
    Every apple were eaten.

    You can also try substituting a plural noun (dogs / men / apples) into the sentences above and you will see it doesn't fit, either:

    Every dogs have their day. Every men are happy. Every apples were eaten.

    If you use a plural noun, you need to use "all" instead of "every" to express the meaning:

    All dogs have their day. All men are happy. All [the] apples were eaten.

  3. #3
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Everybody was \ Everybody were

    Quote Originally Posted by eslpartyboy View Post
    Hi Guys,

    What would the world be like if everybody was \ were as smart as Einstein?

    Which is correct in this context, was or were?

    Thanks for your help.
    Since this is subjunctive, "if everybody were as smart as Einstein was" is correct; however most people would use "was", especially in speech or informal writing.

  4. #4
    jlinger is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Everybody was \ Everybody were

    ... and they would be wrong.

    Like most "rules" I learned, I learned this one by example of popular wrong-ness. When I was a kid, a popular song was "I wish I was a princess." Impossible. And therefore wrong. It could only be, "I wish I were a princess," and similarly, "I wish I were as smart as Einstein."

  5. #5
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Everybody was \ Everybody were

    Quote Originally Posted by jlinger View Post
    ... and they would be wrong.

    Like most "rules" I learned, I learned this one by example of popular wrong-ness. When I was a kid, a popular song was "I wish I was a princess." Impossible. And therefore wrong. It could only be, "I wish I were a princess," and similarly, "I wish I were as smart as Einstein."
    I agree in theory. An extreme prescriptivist would say that "I wish I was a princess" was wrong. But if most people decide that the subjunctive is no longer necessary in cases like this, the use of words like "wrong" and "incorrect" becomes subjective.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Everybody was \ Everybody were

    Raymott: But if most people decide that the subjunctive is no longer necessary...

    Regrettably, this was not an informed decision, nor indeed, a 'decision' at all;
    more a circumstance born of (for whatever reason) not knowing any better, and of copying what they hear.

    As I understand, most posters to this forum are asking quite definitely for the 'correct' ways in which to express themselves, and with the rules of grammar as the standard and in the interests of preserving the subtleties of clear expression, I will be supporting Jlinger's stance.

  7. #7
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Everybody was \ Everybody were

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Raymott: But if most people decide that the subjunctive is no longer necessary...

    Regrettably, this was not an informed decision, nor indeed, a 'decision' at all;
    more a circumstance born of (for whatever reason) not knowing any better, and of copying what they hear.
    Well, I don't think we know whether it's a conscious decision or not. I'm not even sure who wrote the song. Generally speaking, I know university lecturers who consciously do not use the subjunctive in this case.

    As I understand, most posters to this forum are asking quite definitely for the 'correct' ways in which to express themselves, and with the rules of grammar as the standard and in the interests of preserving the subtleties of clear expression, I will be supporting Jlinger's stance.
    I've already agreed that an extreme prescriptivist would take this view.
    And I've agreed that, in theory, it is correct.
    The fact that jlinger's first post missed the point that it was a subjunctive expression (an easy thing to do, and no discredit meant to him) alone suggests that people are not as attuned to this as they used to be. (I take it you are supporting his second stance.) That's quite valid.

    I will assume that you've read my posts, and see that I agree with both of you that, in theory, it should be "were". I am not leading anybody astray by informing them that the subjunctive is often not used here. (OK, I'll go so far as to agree with you that it's mostly the riff-raff and hoi polloi that do it.) But still, grammar is based on language as it is used, and many educated and sensitive people also do not use the subjunctive here. You may fume against this as you list.

    Students, the correct form for the subjunctive use here is "were".


  8. #8
    naomimalan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Everybody was \ Everybody were

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    But still, grammar is based on language as it is used, and many educated and sensitive people also do not use the subjunctive here.
    Hear! hear!

  9. #9
    jlinger is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Everybody was \ Everybody were

    ... or as many educated and sensitive people are prone to write, WRONGLY:
    "Here! Here!"

    But does that make it acceptable?

  10. #10
    naomimalan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Everybody was \ Everybody were


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