Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. cherran
    Guest
    #1

    Question "If it were","if it was"

    "if it were" - is it grammatically correct? If so how it differs from "if it was" in usage?
    Thanks in advance

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Feb 2005
    • Posts: 2,585
    #2

    Re: "If it were","if it was"

    Hello Cherran,

    "If it was", where "was" is an ordinary past simple, can occur in an if-statement about the past:

    1. If it was raining when you left home, why didn't you wear a coat?

    "If it were", where "were" is a past subjunctive, can occur in an if-statement that presents a hypothesis:

    2. If it were my car, I wouldn't park it in the street.

    Often, especially in conversation, speakers will use "if it was" instead of "if it were", in sentences like #2:

    3. If it was my car, I would have it painted green.

    Some text books and style guides suggest that this usage is incorrect; but many well-known authors have used it (e.g. the philosophers George Berkeley in the 18th century, and A. J. Ayer in the 20th century).

    Best wishes,

    MrP
    ·
    Not a professional ESL teacher.
    ·

  2. konungursvia's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Mar 2009
    • Posts: 5,158
    #3

    Re: "If it were","if it was"

    They're alternates, and can be considered the same these days.

  3. bhaisahab's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Ireland

    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 25,627
    #4

    Re: "If it were","if it was"

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    They're alternates, and can be considered the same these days.
    Maybe in North America.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Feb 2005
    • Posts: 2,585
    #5

    Re: "If it were","if it was"

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    They're alternates, and can be considered the same these days.
    Except where there is a genuine reference to the past, e.g.

    1. If that was indeed the man we were looking for, we had better get after him.

    which may not be replaced with:

    2. ???If that were indeed the man we were looking for, we had better get after him.

    MrP
    ·
    Not a professional ESL teacher.
    ·


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #6

    Re: "If it were","if it was"

    ...and in its use:

    "It's easy to love from afar. It's actually living with someone that is the real test - a case of loving from, as it were, a-near."

    "...loving from, as it was, a-near"? I don't think so!

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Feb 2005
    • Posts: 2,585
    #7

    Re: "If it were","if it was"

    Yes; another difference relates to inversion, which is no longer standard, with the "was" form:

    1. Were he to do X, Y would happen.

    2. * Was he to do X, Y would happen.

    MrP
    ·
    Not a professional ESL teacher.
    ·

  4. konungursvia's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Mar 2009
    • Posts: 5,158
    #8

    Re: "If it were","if it was"

    As it were is a fixed phrase..... apples and oranges here. I agree with all the above, but for simplicity's sake, they are all similar enough here in the New World.

Similar Threads

  1. "If S were to" vs. "If S should"
    By sitifan in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 19-Nov-2008, 03:45
  2. Asking about "If any" and "If not"
    By nguyenhoangthangbt in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 31-Oct-2007, 10:09
  3. Why Is It Correct "if I Were" ? And Why Not "if I Was?
    By betoss06 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 10-Oct-2007, 00:09
  4. "If on top of that, someone ceases..." or "If on top of that, if someone ceases"
    By edinohio in forum Analysing and Diagramming Sentences
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 21-Aug-2007, 23:01
  5. "if yes" and "if no"?
    By dihen in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 05-Jan-2007, 18:56

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
  •