[Grammar] was, were

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would it be correct to say,' If Microsoft were hiring...' or 'If Microsoft was hiring...'
 

Nightmare85

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**Neither a teacher nor a native speaker.**

would it be correct to say,' If Microsoft were hiring...' or 'If Microsoft was hiring...'

If I were rich, I would buy a cruising yacht. :)

Yes, I'm very sure it is correct :up:

P.S. There are exceptions for "If + was", but I cannot explain it well.

Cheers!
 

Barb_D

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Well, actually, it's not as simple as that. You need to know whether it's an unreal condition.

Let's say Microsoft really was hiring: If Microsoft was hiring, then he got the job. A real situation with a logical outcome.

Let's say Microsoft is NOT actually hiring, but you are speculating on what would happen if they were: If Microsoft were hiring, then you would be a could candidate.

So we'd need to see the whole sentence to know for sure, but probably, Nightmare is right and "were" is the correct choice.
 

Abstract Idea

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Let's say Microsoft really was hiring: If Microsoft was hiring, then he got the job. A real situation with a logical outcome.
If the speaker knows that Microsoft was hiring, why does he use the word "if"?

Let's say Microsoft really was hiring: If Microsoft was hiring, then he got the job. A real situation with a logical outcome.

Let's say Microsoft is NOT actually hiring, but you are speculating on what would happen if they were: If Microsoft were hiring, then you would be a could candidate.
Besides the two point above, another option to consider is

Let's say nobody knows whether Microsoft was hiring ...


would it be correct to say,' If Microsoft were hiring...' or 'If Microsoft was hiring...'

My opinion is the following:

Usually "were" is the correct option, that is the subjunctive mood.
I have heard many native speakers incorrectly use "was" here, and in AmE it is considerable acceptable in informal English.

Take a look at this example:
A: John has just finished his Java course.
B: I guess if Microsoft were hiring Java programmers now, he would get a good position.
A: He told me today he had a job interview by Microsoft.
B: Hmm, if Microsoft is hiring Java programmers, he will sure get a job!
later:
A: Hi John, have you got the job?
J: No, Microsoft was hiring only C programmers.
A: If you had studied C instead of Java, now you would be employed.

Had I strictly followed the rules from First, Second, and Third Conditional I would have written the last sentence of the above example as "If you had studied C instead of Java, now you would have been employed." But somehow I felt it better to write it the way I did.


I guess an example of indicative mood would be:
A: John is about to arrive. Do you think he has managed to get the job by Microsoft?
B: I think there are only two options: Microsoft was hiring Java developers or Microsoft was not hiring Java developers. If Microsoft was hiring Java developers, then he has got the job.

I think somehow the word "then" is sort of a key to permit the indicative.

But I'd like other members to comment - this point is tough for me.
 

Barb_D

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I respectfully disagree.

The subjunctive were is used when it is an unreal condition, not when you don't know.

Assume you don't know if Microsoft was hiring. You use the "if it was" version.

(In my opinion, when Americans use the "If I was" for an unreal condition, they are not using the subjunctive with was; they don't understand the subjunctive. It's acceptable in informal speech because so many people simply don't know this rule; it's not a deliberate decision. I have no statistical study to back up this feeling. It's just my gut.)
 

Abstract Idea

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I respectfully disagree.

The subjunctive were is used when it is an unreal condition, not when you don't know.

Assume you don't know if Microsoft was hiring. You use the "if it was" version.

(In my opinion, when Americans use the "If I was" for an unreal condition, they are not using the subjunctive with was; they don't understand the subjunctive. It's acceptable in informal speech because so many people simply don't know this rule; it's not a deliberate decision. I have no statistical study to back up this feeling. It's just my gut.)

What exactly do you disagree?

By the way, while rereading my own post, I think I wrote a sentence somewhat ambiguous :
I have heard many native speakers incorrectly use "was" here, and in AmE it is considerable acceptable in informal English.
I intended to say "I have heard that many native speakers ... "
That is, I was taught that many American speakers use it like that and that it is acceptable in informal AmE.
Of course I am not the one to correct any supposed native speaker mistake, rather I am the one to learn from their all kinds of speaking.

I think I'll get some sleep now. It is late and it is always difficult to think in conditionals and subjunctive mood for me.
 

Seeker Liu

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What exactly do you disagree?

By the way, while rereading my own post, I think I wrote a sentence somewhat ambiguous :

I intended to say "I have heard that many native speakers ... "
That is, I was taught that many American speakers use it like that and that it is acceptable in informal AmE.
Of course I am not the one to correct any supposed native speaker mistake, rather I am the one to learn from their all kinds of speaking.

I think I'll get some sleep now. It is late and it is always difficult to think in conditionals and subjunctive mood for me.

I agree with Barb_D.

The subjunctive were is used when it is an unreal condition, not when you don't know.

It is important to konw what an unreal condition is.
For example, I am talking with you about how to use "was/were".
Tomorrow, maybe we will meet each other... And then you may say "If I were not to talk about that question with you yesterday, then this would be the first time for us to talk about that question."

You will find, in this case, "not to talk" is not real condition, but the fact is we have talked about that question. "not to talk" is just what you expect, and "the first time for us to talk ..." is what you hope to happen if the condition is fulfilled.

General if-clause expresses what will happen, if the condition is fulfilled. It is just a possibility, but subjunctive is just your hope, namely it never becomes true, because it already has happended.



A: John has just finished his Java course.
B: I guess if Microsoft were hiring Java programmers now, he would get a good position.(means Microsoft has not hired someone)
A: He told me today he had a job interview by Microsoft. (This is illogical, Since Mircrosoft hasn't hired Java programmers, how does get a interview? Of course, there is another interpretation: What he told me is not true.)
B: Hmm, if Microsoft is hiring Java programmers, he will sure get a job!

later:
A: Hi John, have you got the job?
J: No, Microsoft was hiring only C programmers.
A: If you had studied C instead of Java, now you would be employed.


////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Case One: subjunctive
Background: Microsoft just hires C programmers, and Bob has taken a Java course and has finished, and then want to find a good job.

Then, Bob talk to his firend:
Bob: If Microsoft were heiring Java programmers, then I would get a good job.
Friend: Yes, but the question is that Only C programmer is need.


Case two: if-clause
Background: Bob has taken a Java course and has finished, and then want to find a good job.
Bob: If Mircorsoft is heiring Java programmers, then I will get a good job.
Firend: Yes, I belive you. You are almost the best Java pragrammer I have met.


Please pay attention to Bob's mood in the tow case. The former is a little regretful, but the latter is anticipant. Of course, the former don't become true, but the latter has the probability of becoming true.
 

Raymott

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I was always taught that if the proposition was in the past, you use 'was'.
1. You don't know:
"If Microsoft was hiring yesterday, he will/would have got/gotten the job."

"If Hamlet was really written by Marlowe, as many have argued, then we have underestimated Marlowe's genius"
The Subjunctive Mood

2. You know they weren't hiring.
"If Microsoft had been hiring yesterday, he would have got the job."
You know Marlowe didn't write Hamlet:
"If Hamlet had been written by Marlowe, then we would have a higher opinion of Marlowe.

Personally, I would not say: "If Microsoft were hiring yesterday ... " under any circumstances.
In short, I can't find a place for a 3rd person 'were' in an 'if' clause referring to the past.
 

Barb_D

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Right, not for yesterday - but if it were referring to right now: If they were hiring, you would be a good candidate.
 

Nightmare85

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This never would have happened, if Marge Simpson was here.

I believe this sentence is right :)
(It's normal past.)

Cheers!
 

Barb_D

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This never would have happened, if Marge Simpson was here.

I believe this sentence is right :)
(It's normal past.)

Cheers!

Did it actually happen? If so, I'd say "... if Marge Simpson had been here."

EDITED: Yes, this was a typo! It should have been "had" and I typed "has." I've fixed it now and apologize for any confusion my careless typing may have created.
 
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Raymott

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Did it actually happen? If so, I'd say "... if Marge Simpson has been here."
Do you mean "... if Marge Simpson had been here"?. If so, I would say that too.
But I wouldn't call Nightmare's sentence wrong.
 

Abstract Idea

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Regarding the last example by Nightmare85:

This never would have happened, if Marge Simpson was here.

I believe this sentence is right :)
(It's normal past.)

Cheers!

I still do not understand why this sentence is correct (according to Raymott above it is).


Would the posters kindly check the below sentences correct or wrong according to your opinions?

- This would never have happened, if Marge Simpson were here.
- This would never have happened, if Marge Simpson was here.
- This would never have happened, were Marge Simpson here.
- This would never have happened, was Marge Simpson here.
- This would never have happened, had Marge Simpson been here.
- This would never have happened, if Marge Simpson had been here.

Which ones above are wrong/correct? Also in each one of them, would you please tell me which mood is in play, indicative or subjunctive?
 

Raymott

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I still do not understand why this sentence is correct (according to Raymott above it is).
I didn't say it was right. I said I wouldn't call it wrong.
There is no certainty for descriptivists in the use of the subjunctive these days.
Some sentences are obviously wrong, some are obviously right, and others depend on your sensitivities.
 
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Abstract Idea

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I didn't say it was right. I said I wouldn't call it wrong.
There is no certainty for descriptivists in the use of the subjunctive these days.
Some sentences are obviously wrong, some are obviously right, and others depend on your sensitivities.

So you only mean that you wouldn't call the sentence wrong,
and you did not say anything whether it is correct or not in your opinion, right?

I think I understand it better now.
 

philo2009

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would it be correct to say,' If Microsoft were hiring...' or 'If Microsoft was hiring...'

Grammatically, either is possible.

The choice between them is one of REGISTER ('were', the subjunctive mood, is considered more formal) and/or VARIETY (BrE speakers will generally consider 'was' and 'were' to be equally acceptable, even in relatively formal contexts, while AmE speakers tend to employ 'were' rather more frequently).

The oft-cited distinction between things that the speaker knows to be untrue as opposed to things that (s)he thinks may possibly be true is something of a red herring as regards this particular case: any second conditional (i.e. hypothetical if-sentence consisting in the construction [if+past tense+would V]) is, by its very nature, counterfactual (i.e. it indicates that the speaker actively believes the condition denoted by the protasis not to apply in reality). Where doubt on this point exists in the speaker's mind, the appropriate sentence-type is - as some other contributors have already pointed out - a first conditional (structured [if+present tense+will V]).
 
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