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  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!"

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