Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11
  1. ageha_chan
    Guest
    #1

    was/were

    What is the correct usage for the sentance: "Wouldn't it be nice if life was/were easy?"
    In spoken casual conversation it sounds more natural to use "was" but is the preferred or correct/formal written version "were"
    Thank you for your help!


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
    • Posts: 671
    #2

    Re: was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by ageha_chan View Post
    What is the correct usage for the sentance: "Wouldn't it be nice if life was/were easy?"
    In spoken casual conversation it sounds more natural to use "was" but is the preferred or correct/formal written version "were"
    Thank you for your help!
    No doubt I shall be accused of pedantry again but the 'correct' answer is the subjunctive form '...were easy'. That said, '...was easy' is often used in spoken English.

  2. Philly's Avatar

    • Join Date: Jun 2006
    • Posts: 620
    #3

    Re: was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by ageha_chan View Post
    What is the correct usage for the sentance: "Wouldn't it be nice if life was/were easy?"
    In spoken casual conversation it sounds more natural to use "was" but is the preferred or correct/formal written version "were"
    I do not find it "more natural" to use was in the spoken form. For me was is simply optional in the spoken form.
    .


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
    • Posts: 671
    #4

    Re: was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by Philly View Post
    I do not find it "more natural" to use was in the spoken form. For me was is simply optional in the spoken form.
    .
    Then when do you use the subjunctive mood, if ever? And when do you think it is correct to do so?

  3. Philly's Avatar

    • Join Date: Jun 2006
    • Posts: 620
    #5

    if ever?

    Hi Coffa
    .
    Has there been a misunderstanding here?

    ageha_chan asked which was better: "... if life were easy" or "...if life was easy".

    I indicated I'd use were in both spoken and written form in this case.

    What I took issue with was ageha_chan's statement that NOT using the subjunctive were sounds more natural in spoken English. I don't agree with that.

    I do not think saying "...if life was easy" automatically sounds more natural.

    Does that clear things up?
    .


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
    • Posts: 671
    #6

    Re: if ever?

    Quote Originally Posted by Philly View Post
    Hi Coffa
    .
    Has there been a misunderstanding here?
    ageha_chan asked which was better: "... if life were easy" or "...if life was easy".
    I indicated I'd use were in both spoken and written form in this case.
    What I took issue with was ageha_chan's statement that NOT using the subjunctive were sounds more natural in spoken English. I don't agree with that.
    I do not think saying "...if life was easy" automatically sounds more natural.
    Does that clear things up?
    .
    Hi Philly,

    I apologise. It was my misunderstanding. I read your post as meaning that you believed both forms were identical in usage, and that it was nugatory to point out the traditional distinction. I am perhaps a little over-sensitive to that charge lately

  4. Philly's Avatar

    • Join Date: Jun 2006
    • Posts: 620
    #7

    Re: was/were

    Hi Coffa
    .
    I thought that might have been the case. But, if my post was easy for you to misinterpret, then maybe for others, too.

    I enjoy reading your knowledgeable and practical posts.
    .


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
    • Posts: 3,059
    #8

    Re: was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by Coffa View Post
    No doubt I shall be accused of pedantry again but the 'correct' answer is the subjunctive form '...were easy'. That said, '...was easy' is often used in spoken English.
    Coffa,

    Please don't worry about my addressing these issues with you. I don't mean to suggest any personal offence whatsoever and if you felt some then I apologise.

    But as I said, I do express myself frankly.

    I'd like you to tell me, ... us, if you would; what makes the subjunctive the 'correct' form. Why do you put correct in single quotations?


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
    • Posts: 671
    #9

    Re: was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    Coffa,
    Please don't worry about my addressing these issues with you. I don't mean to suggest any personal offence whatsoever and if you felt some then I apologise.
    But as I said, I do express myself frankly.
    I'd like you to tell me, ... us, if you would; what makes the subjunctive the 'correct' form. Why do you put correct in single quotations?
    I'm not worried about it, and I have no problem with you expressing your opinion - I simply don't recognise myself in the strawman grammar-pedant you seem to wish to combat, that's all. I am fairly forthright myself.

    I offset the word because I recognise that 'correct' is not an absolute truth in language - it is a matter of custom and practice.

    OK. Why defend the subjunctive? I took the liberty of referring to my copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage (2nd Ed) - the 1965 edition, which most consider a good compromise between the strict and libertarian interpretation of grammar:

    "We may divide the uses of the subjunctive into four classes, which we call Alives, Revivals, Survivals, and Arrivals, and no concealment need be made of the purpose in hand, which is to discourage the last two classes."

    Under Alives, "i.e. uses that are still our natural form of speech. Those uses are alive which it occurs to no one to suspect of pedantry or artificiality, and which come as natural in speech as other ways of saying the thing, or more so."

    Without copying out the entire passage, one of the above is:
    'If he were here now (and all if...were clauses expressing a hypothesis that is not a fact).'

    In other words, it is correct MODERN English grammar to insist upon the use of the subjunctive in the case raised by the original poster. I (and clearly Fowler) have no objection to deprecating extinct uses of the subjunctive, but I believe it is not unreasonable to uphold the rules that are considered current within our own time-frame.


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
    • Posts: 3,059
    #10

    Re: was/were

    Quote Originally Posted by Coffa View Post
    I'm not worried about it, and I have no problem with you expressing your opinion - I simply don't recognise myself in the strawman grammar-pedant you seem to wish to combat, that's all. I am fairly forthright myself.

    Good, then we'll get along swimmingly, Coffa. Feel free to tell me I'm full of s**t and I'll do the same.

    I offset the word because I recognise that 'correct' is not an absolute truth in language - it is a matter of custom and practice.

    Did you then miss the part I quoted from the CGEL wherein it stated that 'was' has been in direct competition with 'were' for 300 to 400 years. How's that for both custom and practice?


    OK. Why defend the subjunctive? I took the liberty of referring to my copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage (2nd Ed) - the 1965 edition, which most consider a good compromise between the strict and libertarian interpretation of grammar:
    "We may divide the uses of the subjunctive into four classes, which we call Alives, Revivals, Survivals, and Arrivals, and no concealment need be made of the purpose in hand, which is to discourage the last two classes."
    Under Alives, "i.e. uses that are still our natural form of speech. Those uses are alive which it occurs to no one to suspect of pedantry or artificiality, and which come as natural in speech as other ways of saying the thing, or more so."
    Without copying out the entire passage, one of the above is:
    'If he were here now (and all if...were clauses expressing a hypothesis that is not a fact).'
    In other words, it is correct MODERN English grammar to insist upon the use of the subjunctive in the case raised by the original poster. I (and clearly Fowler) have no objection to deprecating extinct uses of the subjunctive, but I believe it is not unreasonable to uphold the rules that are considered current within our own time-frame.

    Fowler was one of the greatest pedants of all time. There's hardly a stitch of proof anywhere to be found in his tome on language. Quoting Fowler is like quoting William Safire or Richard Lederer or any of the other jokers who make pronouncements on language but fail to back them up with anything but their opinions and bafflegab.

    The only time Fowler got anything right was when he lapsed into a descriptive approach.


    +++++++++++++++++++

    The Decline of Grammar

    Geoffrey Nunberg

    http://www.pbs.org/speak/speech/correct/decline/

    IS the English language -- or to put it less apocalyptically, English prose writing -- really in a bad way? How would one tell? The standard jeremiads of the Sunday supplements give only anecdotal evidence, and that of a curious sort; the examples of degradation that they present are drawn not from current plays or novels, which are grammatically and syntactically extra judicium, but from advertisements, scholarly papers, and -- most popular of all -- memos from college deans.

    Most of my fellow linguists, in fact, would say that it is absurd even to talk about a language changing for the better or the worse. When you have the historical picture before you, and can see how Indo-European gradually slipped into Germanic, Germanic into Anglo-Saxon, and Anglo-Saxon into the English of Chaucer, then Shakespeare, and then Henry James, the process of linguistic change seems as ineluctable and impersonal as continental drift.

    From this Olympian point of view, not even the Norman invasion had much of an effect on the structure of the language, and all the tirades of all the grammarians since the Renaissance sound like the prattlings of landscape gardeners who hope by frantic efforts to keep Alaska from bumping into Asia.

    Take Modern English Usage, by that good man H. W. Fowler, "a Christian in all but actual faith," as the Dictionary of National Biography called him. Despite a revision in 1965, it is out-of-date, yet it still has a coterie as devoted as the fans of Jane Austen or Max Beerbohm, who prize its diffident irony, its prose cadences, and, above all, the respect it shows for its readers' intelligence and principles.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    But let's look at the actual issue. How can you determine that 'were' is 'correct', with or without quotes?

    Why isn't there this collective prescriptive scream about the other subjunctive forms that are being replaced? Are they not equally important to save?

    Why try to save anything?

    You know what's so maddening about the prescriptions; no proof. In this case, the only "proof" offered turns out to be a complete fabrication, a lie. How does that help students, native or non-native?

    #

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. was/were going to
    By mehmetcalimli in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 26-Nov-2005, 04:09
  2. was/were
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 02-Feb-2004, 18:30

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •