'If I were' or 'If I was'?

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Need assistance.

Why do we say "If I were you, I would have...

Why don't we say "If I was you, I would have...

Please explain this rule. Your help is very much appreciated.🆙
 
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gabber

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The "were" in "If I were you" is hypothetical, that is, untrue. It means that the speaker is talking about another, potential universe - one that exists only in his mind. It's imaginary. A lot of native speakers say "If I was you...", when they're not speaking carefully.
You asked a good question. You see things.
 

2010

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2010,
The "were" in "If I were you" is hypothetical, that is, untrue. It means that the speaker is talking about another, potential universe - one that exists only in his mind. It's imaginary. A lot of native speakers say "If I was you...", when they're not speaking carefully.
You asked a good question. You see things.

Thank you Gabber!

Please tell me if the usage of this sentence is grammatically correct!
 

Tdol

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'If I were' is always correct and is preferred in formal usage. Many native speakers do use 'If I was', but it is still regarded as an error by some, so it is better to play safe and use 'If I were'.
 

2010

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'If I were' is always correct and is preferred in formal usage. Many native speakers do use 'If I was', but it is still regarded as an error by some, so it is better to play safe and use 'If I were'.

Thank you Tdol!

What I understand is that there isn't a rule for this and it has been followed by everyone and therefore it sounds correct!
 

RonBee

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Thank you Tdol!

What I understand is that there isn't a rule for this and it has been followed by everyone and therefore it sounds correct!
What is important here is that the expression is well understood in the English-speaking community. As gabber explained, it is about a hypothetical situation. If I say (for example) "I wouldn't do that if I were you" it is understood as a warning. (Perhaps the person is about to pet a strange dog.)

:)
 

Barb_D

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This is called the subjunctive.

You can read more about it in many places, including here: Subjunctive Mood

There certainly are rules -- even rules that native speakers don't understand very well!
 

sarat_106

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Need assistance.

Why do we say "If I were you, I would have...

Please explain this rule. Your help is very much appreciated.:up:

Your example is a conditional sentence having two clauses; (1) The if clause (If I were you)and The main clause (I would have…). The clause introduced by “if” may contain either a past subjunctive verb (if I were going) or an indicative verb (if I was going), depending on the intended meaning. Here you have a past subjunctive.

According to the traditional rule, the subjunctive should be used to describe an occurrence that is presupposed to be contrary to fact, as in:
If I were ten years younger, I would have definitely fallen in love with this beautiful lady.
If I were you, I would have given up smoking
The verb of the main clause in such a sentence must then contain the modal verb would or (less frequently) should. You have no choice over the main verb.
If you say: If I were you, I could have given up smoking. It is wrong.
 

Fillet

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Your example is a conditional sentence having two clauses; (1) The if clause (If I were you)and The main clause (I would have…). The clause introduced by “if” may contain either a past subjunctive verb (if I were going) or an indicative verb (if I was going), depending on the intended meaning. Here you have a past subjunctive.

According to the traditional rule, the subjunctive should be used to describe an occurrence that is presupposed to be contrary to fact, as in:
If I were ten years younger, I would have definitely fallen in love with this beautiful lady.
If I were you, I would have given up smoking
The verb of the main clause in such a sentence must then contain the modal verb would or (less frequently) should. You have no choice over the main verb.
If you say: If I were you, I could have given up smoking. It is wrong.

What about pronouns such as "if it were", "If she were", and "if he were"? Does the same rule apply?
How about "wish it were..."?
 

Barb_D

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Yes, the subjunctive "were" applies to third-person singular as well as first-person singular. (You can't hear it in second person singular or the plural forms, because it's the same word either way.)
 

Tdol

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How about "wish it were..."?

Theoretically, the same rule applies, but the use of the subjunctive with wish is less marked than in straight conditionals.
 

Nightmare85

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I wish I were a teacher. ;-)

Cheers!
 
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