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    #1

    How to use to be in subjunctive

    Hey there

    Well I have got a bit confused with this, but as far as I know in subjunctive when you use the verb to be, you do not conjugate the verb according to what person it is.


    But then how come that this Justin Bieber sings: "If I was your boyfriend". Should it not be were instead of was.

    And then there is this scene in the Lord of the Rings, where Sam says:
    "If I was ever to marry anyone, it would be her" (not the exact wording) Should it not also be were instead of was.

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: How to use to be in subjunctive

    Although purists insist on the subjunctive form 'were' in hypothetical conditionals, many people do not use it these days, except in 'if I were you'.

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    #3

    Re: How to use to be in subjunctive

    The subjunctive is not obligatory. You will hear "If I was" just as often as, if not more often than, "If I were". Many people of the younger generation have no idea that "If I were" even exists.

    As far as the Justin Bieber lyrics are concerned, I recommend that you don't take song lyrics as any indication of correct grammar anyway. Lyricists are more worried about rhyme and rhythm than grammatical correctness.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #4

    Re: How to use to be in subjunctive

    Lots of native speakers don't know the subjunctive exists and do not use it. Pop star teenagers are no role model for language.

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    #5

    Re: How to use to be in subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    Pop star teenagers are no role model for language.
    I'm not sure I can think of anything that teenage pop stars are a role model for.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #6

    Re: How to use to be in subjunctive

    Yeah well ok but what about the other quote, which is from Tolkien himself!

    And ok it sounds a bit like it is very similar to the dwindling use of whom, where these nuances in the grammar are lost because English is becoming so big and thus also being made more accessible (do not know if it conscious thing). Do you agree? And am I the only one who thinks that is bit sad?

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    #7

    Re: How to use to be in subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by lo2 View Post
    Yeah well ok but what about the other quote, which is from Tolkien himself!

    And ok it sounds a bit like it is very similar to the dwindling use of whom, where these nuances in the grammar are lost because English is becoming so big and thus also being made more accessible (do not know if it conscious thing). Do you agree? And am I the only one who thinks that is bit sad?
    Tolkien would have written it like that on purpose. Sam Gamjee is a working class character, he is a servant and as such corresponds to a working class Englishman with little education.

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    #8

    Re: How to use to be in subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    Tolkien would have written it like that on purpose. Sam Gamjee is a working class character, he is a servant and as such corresponds to a working class Englishman with little education.
    That is a very good observation! Thanks for the help :)

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    #9

    Re: How to use to be in subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by lo2 View Post
    And then there is this scene in the Lord of the Rings, where Sam says:
    "If I was ever to marry anyone, it would be her" (not the exact wording) Should it not also be were instead of was.
    Is this scene taken straight from the book, or from the film. If it is the latter, it may explain this use of "was": someone adapted the book to make the film, and perhaps that person changed the wording.

    charliedeut
    Please be aware that I'm neither a native English speaker nor a teacher.

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