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Thread: if I was / if I were

  1. #1
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    if I was / if I were

    I would like to know if there is a different between if i was and if i were or if they mean exactly the same thing, ex:
    If i was rich [...]
    If i were rich [...]

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    Re: Different between if i was / if i were

    They mean exactly the same thing, although "If I was" + [hypothetical situation] is considered by many to be gramatically incorrect and is not acceptable in more formal (particularly written) contexts.

    I personally always say and write "If I were", and would only use "If I was" in phrases like this that capture a different meaning:

    If I was rude on the phone with you yesterday, I apologize.

    But it really depends on the person, and "If I was" is very common in spoken English. There have a few discussions on this already.
    Gracias de antemano por las correciones, así aprendemos.

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    Re: Different between if i was / if i were

    Quote Originally Posted by Daywalker
    I would like to know if there is a different between if i was and if i were or if they mean exactly the same thing, ex:
    If i was rich [...]
    If i were rich [...]
    They mean the same.

    "were" is the conjunctive form of the verb "be".
    English has almost lost the conjunctive mood and the forms of the conjunctive fell together with the past tense forms indicative, only "be" still keeps its forms in "I were" and "he were".

    "If I were rich..." is a bit more proper, but "If I was..." is not wrong either.
    Hirez rûnêta hintun in daz ora:
    "uildû noh, hinta, ... ?

    (10. Jhdt.; Brüssel Bibliothèque royale Hs.8860-7 S.15v)

  4. #4
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    Re: Difference between if i was / if i were

    Read more about the MOODS OR MODES of the sentences....

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    Re: Difference between if i was / if i were

    Please provide some context...

    In the subjunctive sense, "were" is the correct form, "was" the incorrect but common form.

    As Duder states, however, there is another scenario - in which "was" is the only correct form.

  6. #6
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    Re: Difference between if i was / if i were

    Quote Originally Posted by Daywalker
    I would like to know if there is a different between if i was and if i were or if they mean exactly the same thing, ex:
    If i was rich [...]
    If i were rich [...]
    Although many English-speaking people use them interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing.

    If I were your teacher, I'd flunk you. (I am not your teacher)

    If I were going to Antarctica, I'd go with my best friend. (I am not going to Antarctica)



    If I was fast in the race, it's because I had competition to push me. (I may have been fast; I may not have. The condition is unclear)

    If I was rude, I apologize. (I may have been rude. It depends on a person's point-of-view. The condition is unclear)

    (Someone else used the above example, but it's a good one)

  7. #7
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    Re: Difference between if i was / if i were

    As Modgirl says, "I I were" is used as a conditional.

    If I were your teacher, I'd flunk you. (I am not your teacher)

    If I were going to Antarctica, I'd go with my best friend. (I am not going to Antarctica)

    It is the correct way to say it, although as Duder states, when speaking some people prefer to say "I was".

  8. #8
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    Re: Difference between if i was / if i were

    Modgirl's explanation is correct. They are not the same. Were is in the subjunctive "mood". It is one of the few words in English which still retain a distinct subjunctive form.
    No aguanto la injusticia.


  9. #9
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    Re: Difference between if i was / if i were

    ok thanks

  10. #10
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    Re: if I was / if I were

    I want to add a new question: what about Beyonce song "If I were a boy".
    Why did she use "were"? It is he, isn't it?

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    Re: if I was / if I were

    Quote Originally Posted by kapas View Post
    I want to add a new question: what about Beyonce song "If I were a boy".
    Why did she use "were"? It is he, isn't it?
    The last time I looked, Beyonce was a 28 year-old woman.

    She is definitely not a boy.

    So when she says "If I were a boy" - she is talking about an unreal, or imaginary situation.
    Bibo, ergo sum.

  12. #12
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    Re: if I was / if I were

    A lot of US speakers use "was" incorrectly--ex: If it was up to me ...

    But when you don't, you sound more educated, and that would matter in a formal setting such as a business meeting or a term paper.

  13. #13
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    Re: if I was / if I were

    For me, both could be acceptable, but in terms of hypotethical situations "were" is the best option.

    E.g. If I were rich, I´d buy a Palace.
    We should never walk alone .

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    Re: if I was / if I were

    chamyto;7738988]For me, both could be acceptable, but in terms of hypotethical situations "were" is the best option.
    Both are acceptable, chamyto, in the right context.

    ''If I was rude on the phone, I'm sorry''

    But, in despite I am not an english native speaker, I hurt my ears when someone says 'If I was rich, I would buy a new car'.


    Saludos
    ''Me gustas más cuando te sueño...entonces hago de ti lo que quiero''. Juan Rulfo.

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    Re: if I was / if I were

    Yes, even though both are used interchangeably, I guess there is a point where one differs other.
    Whenever, impossible situations(hypothetical ones) needed to be expressed, were would be used. If we rather wanted to express a past situation which could have been possible otherwise, was might replace were there.

    1.) I could marry her if I were Tom cruise. (It seems quite impossible for me to be Tom Cruise)
    2.) What would her reply be if he were to propose her. (He is in no mood to propose her or is incapable of doing the same)
    3.) She might stay there if Moon were found suitable to live for.(We all know, as of now we, can not inhabitate Moon)

    1). I would say hi to her if I was amongst them. (I wasn't there however could have been there)
    2.) Later, she would feel sorry if he was treated bad by her.(He could have rather well been treated by her though).
    3.) I beg my apologise if I was drunk.(I really was)

    Hope it helps!
    Saurabh.

  16. #16
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    Re: Difference between if i was / if i were

    Quote Originally Posted by modgirl View Post
    Although many English-speaking people use them interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing.

    If I were your teacher, I'd flunk you. (I am not your teacher)

    If I were going to Antarctica, I'd go with my best friend. (I am not going to Antarctica)



    If I was fast in the race, it's because I had competition to push me. (I may have been fast; I may not have. The condition is unclear)

    If I was rude, I apologize. (I may have been rude. It depends on a person's point-of-view. The condition is unclear)

    (Someone else used the above example, but it's a good one)
    Great explanation of the difference. I, too, have only ever really heard people saying "If I was...". I signed up to this forum though to ask people here two questions:

    1) If you use 'If I were' in the subjunctive case what is the name of the case, such as you mentioned, where it is correct to still use 'If I was'?

    2) Is 'I wish I were' always more correct than 'I wish I was'? Is there *any* situation where 'I wish I was' would be accurate? For instance, would 'I wish I had been faster' be more correct than saying 'I wish I was faster'?

    Thanks

  17. #17
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    Re: if I was / if I were

    Someone sent me a statement today saying "I wonder how life would be if I were shallow" it sounded a bit off to me. Should it have been "was" instead of were? Or was he correct?

  18. #18
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    Re: if I was / if I were

    Quote Originally Posted by ErikaDee View Post
    Someone sent me a statement today saying "I wonder how life would be if I were shallow" it sounded a bit off to me. Should it have been "was" instead of were? Or was he correct?
    Welcome to the Forum, ErikaDee

    I'd say the same that someone did


    It means, he was totally sure he couldn't be shallow and hence was expressing a hypothetical situation, not the real one.

    Why do you think it should have been "Was" and not "Were" ?
    Last edited by Saurabh; 25th September 2011 at 11:24 AM. Reason: Added a sentence
    “Bad habits are like a comfortable bed,easy to get into, but hard to get out of.”

  19. #19
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    Re: Difference between if i was / if i were

    Quote Originally Posted by Aodhán View Post
    Great explanation of the difference. I, too, have only ever really heard people saying "If I was...". I signed up to this forum though to ask people here two questions:

    1) If you use 'If I were' in the subjunctive case what is the name of the case, such as you mentioned, where it is correct to still use 'If I was'?

    2) Is 'I wish I were' always more correct than 'I wish I was'? Is there *any* situation where 'I wish I was' would be accurate? For instance, would 'I wish I had been faster' be more correct than saying 'I wish I was faster'?

    Thanks
    1) "If I was" (simple past) is often used where "if I were" (past subjunctive) would be grammatically correct. In type 2 if-clauses you use the past subjunctive, which just happens to have the same form as the simple past for most verbs.
    I was once told "was" is used for unreal situations that could be possible ("If I was rich" - might happen some day, but at the moment I'm not vs."if I were the King of England/if I were a girl" - I'm not and I'll never be; it's impossible), not sure if that's 100% correct though.

    2) There is a huge difference:
    "I wish I was (actually: were) faster" - I'm not fast, but I'd like to be.
    "I wish I had been faster" - I was not fast (in a race for example): the race is over and I regret that I was so slow.

    Cheers,

    Aumont

    €dit:
    Some input on the use of "was" vs. "were" depending on the level of possibility would be much appreciated.
    Last edited by Aumont; 26th November 2011 at 11:17 AM.

  20. #20
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    Re: Difference between if i was / if i were

    Quote Originally Posted by Aumont View Post
    1)
    I was once told "was" is used for unreal situations that could be possible ("If I was rich" - might happen some day, but at the moment I'm not vs."if I were the King of England/if I were a girl" - I'm not and I'll never be; it's impossible), not sure if that's 100% correct though.
    .
    It's 100% wrong.

    Just about everything is theoretically possible.

    You could win the lottery and become rich - theoretically possible.
    You could have a sex change, and become a girl - theoretically possible.
    The United Kingdom could split up, and the new English government could invite you to become King of England- theoretically possible, but rather unlikely.
    Incidentally, the last person to have the title "King of England" was William III, who died in 1702.

    So use "were" for currently unreal or imagined situations, without playing probability games.

    Stick with "If I were rich, [but I am not], I would buy a castle in Spain." "If I were the King of England [which I am not], I would bring back the stocks and the pillory." "If I were a girl, [which I am not], I would always wear green stockings."
    Bibo, ergo sum.

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