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  1. #1
    Anonymous Guest

    Default conditionals and the verb to be

    Hi,

    When using the second conditional, should the verb to be always be conjugated as "were"?
    How do I know when to use "if he was" or "if he were"?

    Thanks for your time and for going out of your way to help all of us out!

    Patricia

  2. #2
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: conditionals and the verb to be

    Quote Originally Posted by patricia
    Hi,

    When using the second conditional, should the verb to be always be conjugated as "were"?
    I think so.

    Quote Originally Posted by patricia
    How do I know when to use "if he was" or "if he were"?
    I don't think it is a choice you need to make. Read the information in the glossary, and let me know if you think I am right. :wink:

    Second conditionals:
    http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary...nditional.html

  3. #3
    patricia Guest

    Default Re: conditionals and the verb to be

    Thanks, I agree with you about the second conditional. At least that's what I have read in several web pages. Though it does say that it can take the "were" form, not that it has to. Kind of left me hanging.

    "TO BE: In Standard English this verb can take the 'were' form for all persons in the If clause"

    So there's one thing I haven't quite gotten straight yet, there are times when "if she/he was" is correct right?
    At least searching the net I found it tons of times. I know its reliability is definably questionable but it just seems like there are too many people out there making the same "mistake" for it to actually be wrong!

    Such as...
    Imagine if he was still alive.
    Things Bill Gates would change if he was from Alabama
    Now, I don't know if these are right but shouldn't it be were?

    And there are also other cases which I don't think fall into the second conditional category...
    Well, if he was going to do it anyway, he might as well grab it now.
    It sounds ok to me but what's the grammatical explanation?

    Sorry it got so long...

    Thanks
    Patricia

  4. #4
    RonBee's Avatar
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    Default Re: conditionals and the verb to be

    You can use "was" in conditionals. (The phrase "if he was from Alabama" assumes the person is not from Alabama.)

    And there are also other cases which I don't think fall into the second conditional category...
    Well, if he was going to do it anyway, he might as well grab it now.
    It sounds ok to me but what's the grammatical explanation?
    The sentence in question is not a conditional. The speaker assumes that "he" is going to do "it" (whatever it is), as "might as well" implies. You could replace "was" in that sentence with "is" with no change in the meaning.

    8)

  5. #5
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    Default Re: conditionals and the verb to be

    As far as I know, 'were' used to be the only acceptable form of 'to be' (for all persons) in second conditionals. As time passed, more and more people started using 'was' in the first and third person singular, so it is now accepted as correct usage.
    Basically, there's no difference between: if I was you, ... and if I were you, ...
    It's a matter of personal choice.

  6. #6
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default

    Many still regard 'if I\he\she\it were' as in some way better, so I would recommend its use in formal English, but using 'was' is perfectly correct. In ESL exams, both forms are regarded as correct. IN fact, in BE, the majority use 'was'.

  7. #7
    patricia Guest

    Default Re: conditionals and the verb to be

    Thanks... it didn't turn out to be half as complicated as I had originally thought!

  8. #8
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    You're welcome.

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