Pearson Adult Learning Centre Home
Pearson Adult Learning Centre
  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (March 1, 2009)

The Was's and the Were's

Ever wonder when to say "I wish I were" or "I wish I was"? If so, you are not alone. In fact, as long ago as 1929, famous grammarian H. W. Fowler called the use of the subjunctive in English "moribund" (near death).

However, English speakers and writers still do use the subjunctive case. Here are some examples:

When we want to refer to something outside reality (non existent) we can say, "If I were; if he were; if they were." So, you might say to a friend with a broken fence, "If I were you, I would get that fixed before the neighbour's dog comes to bite you!"

When we want to refer to something that could have existed or did exist at some time, we can use "If I was etc." So, you might say about a friend, "If she was pregnant at the time, no wonder she ate so many pickles and ice cream!"

See our most recent tips.

Tips from November 2001 to April 2002

Tips from September 2000 to October 2001.

Tips from January to August 2000
Tips from January to December 1999



Visit our Contact Us page to send email to the centre.
Copyright 1997 to 2009 Pearson Adult Learning Centre, New Westminster School District 40
Web Site Created by The Educated Web
Last modified: July 31, 2009