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  1. BrunaBC's Avatar
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    #1

    If I was/were

    Hello,

    I was taught that, when referring to hypothetical situations, the were should be used, even for 1st or 3rd person singular. Ex) If I were you I'd give him a chance. / I'd be much happier if he were here.

    However I've seen (heard) people using if I was, like in that song from the kid Bieber "If I was your boyfriend". I know songs are not a good source for grammar, but I've noticed that in other situations too.

    Could you tell me if it's ok grammatically?

    Thank you.
    Not a teacher.

  2. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: If I was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by BrunaBC View Post
    Hello,

    I was taught that, when referring to hypothetical situations, the were should be used, even for 1st or 3rd person singular. Ex) If I were you I'd give him a chance. / I'd be much happier if he were here.

    However I've seen (heard) people using if I was, like in that song from the kid Bieber "If I was your boyfriend". I know songs are not a good source for grammar, but I've noticed that in other situations too.

    Could you tell me if it's ok grammatically?

    Thank you.
    Many people use "was" in that sort of context, grammatically it should be "were". I teach students to use "were".

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    #3

    Re: If I was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by BrunaBC View Post
    Hello,

    I was taught that, when referring to hypothetical situations, the were should be used, even for 1st or 3rd person singular. Ex) If I were you I'd give him a chance. / I'd be much happier if he were here.

    However I've seen (heard) people using if I was, like in that song from the kid Bieber "If I was your boyfriend". I know songs are not a good source for grammar, but I've noticed that in other situations too.

    Could you tell me if it's ok grammatically?

    Thank you.

    I prefer to use this (If I were you) because it is more famous more than (I was).

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    #4

    Re: If I was/were

    Many native speakers don't know about the subjunctive, so they don't use it.

    Don't use pop songs as a reference to good English.

  3. 5jj's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: If I was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    Many people use "was" in that sort of context, grammatically it should be "were". I teach students to use "were".
    I don't agree that 'grammatically it should be "were"'. That sounds a little prescriptive to me.

    There is little doubt that, in the past, the subjunctive form 'were' was what was used by most native speakers in such counterfactual utterances, as the equivalent still is in many Indo-European languages, However, in British English, the use of the subjunctive has become increasingly rare over the last century or so. BE is the only verb in which the past subjunctive has a recognisably distinct form, 'were' in the first and third persons singular, and most native speakers do not use it except (for many speakers) in what has become almost a fixed, fossilised, phrase 'if I were you'. I suspect that the majority of speakers of British English would use 'was in 'If Milliband .... Prime Minister now, ...'.

    I have nothing against subjunctive 'were' - I use it myself -but I do not believe that 'was' is 'grammatically incorrect' these days.

  4. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: If I was/were

    And on forums like this, I've learned in the US, we're still much more prescriptive about the subjunctive than you are in the UK these days. "If I was" makes me cringe just a little. (Not nearly as much as "very unique," though.)
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  5. 5jj's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: If I was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    And on forums like this, I've learned in the US, we're still much more prescriptive about the subjunctive than you are in the UK these days.
    That's the way it seems to me, though I also have the impression that many Americans find the use of the subjunctive more natural than many Brits.

    I have to be careful about how I word what I am going to say now, because I have no wish or right to tell Americans what they should or should not do. So, a very personal thought - it seems to me that (many?) Americans have more desire than (many of) us Brits to accept 'rules' laid down by style guides. Neither of us has an 'Academy' as the French do, but your Strunk and Wagnall, and others, seem to be more influential than our Fowler - often quoted if he suits our purposes, but just as often ignored if he doesn't.
    "If I was" makes me cringe just a little.
    Me too. . As a teacher, I am a 'liberal'. As a product of my background and education, I am, personally, very conservative.

  6. CarloSsS's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: If I was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    So, a very personal thought - it seems to me that (many?) Americans have more desire than (many of) us Brits to accept 'rules' laid down by style guides.
    Please, would you be so kind and you give some examples of these differences between BrE and AmE? Apart from the usage of subjunctive, of course. I never noticed this, but then again, I am influenced by both variants of English so it is sometimes difficult for me to tell them apart.

    For example, maybe I am wrong on this one, but I noticed that when using quotation marks in combinations with commas, Americans use them like this: "blue," "black," "white," and "yellow." (not sure about the position of the period) The British, on the other hand, would write the same in this manner: "blue", "black", "white" and "yellow". (again not sure about the position of the period)
    Please note that I'm not a teacher.

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    #9

    Re: If I was/were

    I think Americans like the idea that there are rules - even if we don't always follow them.

  7. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: If I was/were

    Carlos, please start a new thread on a new topic. This thread is about the subjunctive.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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