Interested in Language
They treated me as if I was / were a child.
Which is the correct verb to use?
This is from AUE: FAQ excerpt: Subjunctive
The past subjunctive is used:
(1) for counterfactual conditionals: "If I were..." or
(literary) "Were I...". In informal English, substitution of
the past indicative form ("If I was...") is common. But note
that speakers who make this substitution are *still*
distinguishing possible conditions from counterfactual ones,
by a change of tense:
Possible condition: "If I am" "If I was"
Counterfactual condition: "If I were/was" "If I had been"
"As if" and "as though" were originally always used to introduce
counterfactuals, but are now often used in "looks as if",
"sounds as though", etc., to introduce things that the speaker
actually believes ("It looks as if" = "It appears that"). In
such cases the present indicative is often used. ("As if" and
"as though" are exceptions to the above table in that they take
the past subjunctive, not the pluperfect subjunctive, for
counterfactuals in the past. The past tense of "If he were a
fool, he would mention it" is "If he had been a fool, he would
have mentioned it"; but the past tense of "He talks as if he
were a fool" is "He talked as if he were a fool." "He talked as
if he had been a fool" would mean that he seemed, not foolish,
but regretful of earlier foolishness.)
Thanks, Casiopea, for the detailed explanation.
However, I'm still a bit lost. Could you put it in your own words so that I can have a clearer picture between "He treated me as if I was a child" and "He treated me as if I were a child."
I thought 'was' and 'were' were interchangeable, with 'were' being more formal.
Thanks in advance.
Thank you (Casiopea).
I too benefitted from this thread.
Last edited by user_gary; 07-Mar-2007 at 14:53.
Yes, both are OK. Were is strictly correct, was - conversational or colloquial.
Thanks, Casiopea and Humble, for your replies.