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    #1

    was or were

    Which is correct? was or were. I think this might be subjunctive

    If safety of students was/were the primary purpose of schools [which it isn't], educational opportunities would be severly different: There would be no playgrounds, no science experiments, no spots, no marching bands.

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: was or were

    The subjunctive form were is preferred by many, especially in AmE. Many people would use was in BrE.

  2. euncu's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: was or were

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    The subjunctive form were is preferred by many, especially in AmE. Many people would use was in BrE.
    Sorry 5jj but I failed to understand why "were" is also ok since "the safety of students" is singular.

    Thanks for your reply in advance.

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: was or were

    Well, that's the confusing thing about the subjunctive. After "if" (for example"), the word "were" is used for all six persons.

    If I were ...
    If you were ...
    If he/she/it were ...
    If we were ...
    If you were ...
    If they were ...

    As you can see, it makes no difference whether it's singular or plural. Yes, "the welfare [of students]" is a singular noun, but in the subjunctive takes "were", as do all the others.

    So, as 5jj said, the subjunctive is preferred by some people but has certainly fallen out of usage with a lot of people. I would expect to hear "If ... was" from the majority of BrE speakers under about 30, and from quite a few over 30, these days. As far as I know, it's no longer considered to be incorrect. However, "If ... were" is never considered to be incorrect.

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