I wish I was/were

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by Salegrosso, Feb 11, 2007.

  1. Salegrosso Senior Member

    Napoli (Italy)
    Verona (Italy)
    TrentinaNE has just transformed I wish I was with you into I wish I were with you.
    But there is a beautiful song of Pearl Jam which begins just with I wish I was...
    Is it wrong? Is it a kind of slang?
  2. cscarfo Senior Member

    Italy Italian
    Simon & Garfunkel's Homeward Bound reads:
    I wish I was
    Homeward bound

  3. Salegrosso Senior Member

    Napoli (Italy)
    Verona (Italy)
    Moral: singers say I wish I was.
    And poets?
  4. audia Senior Member

    I wish takes the conditional therefore ""I were"" is correct but since it is an exception it is losing use. More and more people are saying I wish I was in the conditional.I believe both are accepted now.
  5. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    Just as il congiuntivo gives many modern-day Italians some difficulty (not to mention students!), many English-speakers misuse the subjunctive on the rare occasions that English calls for it. Song-writers and poets are no exception. ;)

    Ecco un link utile. :thumbsup: :)

  6. Salegrosso Senior Member

    Napoli (Italy)
    Verona (Italy)
    Ok, thank you.
    Similar phenomena are in Italian regarding the congiuntivo.
    So, both are accepted but, I suppose, I were is more elegant... is it so?

    Ooops, I read now Elisabetta. Such a telepatia!!!

    And thanks for the link.
  7. audia Senior Member

    Elisabetta is right it is subjunctive in this case not conditional but the misuse also occurs in the conditional.
  8. virgilio Senior Member

    English UK
    May I offer 2 alternative explanations of the phenomena.
    (1) English words rarely indicate their syntax function by their spelling. If we were to think of words like "subjunctive and "indicative" as defining not the spelling of those words but their syntax function, we might say that the English imperfect subjunctive is coming to be written and pronounced as "was" instead of "were", as in the past.
    (2) There can be a reason why - even in the past - "if I was" would be correct. Let me explain.
    When we refer to a vague, indeterminate hypothetical future, we can use 2 methods:
    (a) If I were ever to say that, people would think etc.......
    (b) If I ever said that, people would think etc...............

    In other words (the subjunctive "were" followed by an infinitive) = a form of the verb identical with the simple past tense of the verb concerned.

    Therefore, "If I were to be praised by that man, I would be greatly honoured"= "If I was praised by that man, I would be greatly honoured

    QED, as they say in Maths (or "Math"), if you're American).

  9. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I don't use the subjunctive, whether it sounds bad or not, I would probably feel ashamed if I said "I wish I were" in public.....it's way too posh

    "I wish I was" ... always.
  10. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    Don't generalize about singer/songwriters not knowing the subjunctive.

    If I were a carpenter and you were a lady…
    If I were a rich man…
    If I were the king of the world, I tell you what I’d do…
    God bless the child that's got his own
    Let it be

    And I don't know if these also are in songs, but Alex and others probably use the subjunctive in English without realizing it on many occasions:

    Let it be said
    So be it
    Be that as it may
    God bless you
    Wish you were here

    And I'm sorry to hear that grammar is now too posh to use. I wonder then... what you're doing in a language forum trying to get the hang of it in a foreign language. Aren't you worried you'll feel too posh in Italian, or just your native tongue? ;)
  11. virgilio Senior Member

    English UK
    And "So help me God", where "God" is not vocative, as is sometimes supposed.
  12. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    And the similar and also common, "God help me/us!"

    And another lyric, "If I had a hammer..."
  13. audia Senior Member

    Alex, since you use the word "posh" I assume your "cave"is in England and the people on "Mars" where you say are from were British English speakers. I believe in BE "was" is becoming more accepted than in AE. In AE it is a sign of poor English knowledge so watch out if you go to the US or translate for the US. Do my other countrymen ( I mean countrypeople ;))agree ?
    Also as a new user, I don't want to feel like I am stepping on the BE users toes when I interject an AE opinion but I also dont want to confuse the Italians. Aiuto!
  14. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    Hmmm. You've never been to America but assume that we have an AE/BE difference at hand. I realize you've never asked me how much time I spend in England, or how many Brits I am surrounded by in a normal day. I am unwilling to accept that your assertion is representative of your entire country's opinion on the subject. Oh, wait... are you still speaking for cavedwellers on Mars?
  15. cscarfo Senior Member

    Italy Italian
    My English grammar book "A practical English grammar" Thomson & Martinet, 1980, is very strict on this issue: :)
    Unreal past tenses (subjunctives) after wish and if only:
    Note that we can say either I/he/she/it was or I/he/she/it were. were is the more correct form but was is often used, especially in conversation. Etc..
  16. Trina

    Trina Senior Member

    Australia (English)
    It should be noted for all those people who are learning English as a second language that the subjunctive mood is alive and well (and if it were up to me, it would be spread to all the far-flung points of the galaxy :p), and is not considered "posh" by all BE speakers.
    "If I were..., I would...." is commonly used in both everyday speech as well as literature.
    "If I were you, I would go to the doctor immediately." - I can't see how this would be considered to be "posh".
  17. Avles Member

    English, USA
    As Trina says, while this subjunctive is not always used in spoken English, it is still considered preferable by very many (and absolutely obligatory by some) and I think it is definitely worth learning for the foreign speaker, especially for use in writing.

    Like audia, I remember reading somewhere that the use of the indicative with the hypothetical "if" and "to wish" is more common in BE than in AE.

    "If I was you" sounds plain wrong to me.
  18. Sorcha Senior Member

    Ireland, English
    I personally think that the subjuntive should be used where appropriate and that it is by no means 'posh' to use it. It is simply correct!
    Viva il congiuntivo!
    I have also noticed that many Italians don't use it in everyday speech, would I be right i saying in that?
  19. Salegrosso Senior Member

    Napoli (Italy)
    Verona (Italy)
    Yes, but it is a frequent mistake.
    As in English... il congiuntivo is simply correct! And neglected.
  20. kaineggs Member

    Italy, Italian
    Stamattina ascoltavo un programma della BBC
    e tra le varie discussioni c'era quella tra la correttezza grammaticale
    di I WISH I WAS...
    La forma corretta sarebbe I WISH I WERE.
    Ma non capisco perchè mai.
    La coniugazione del verbo non è I WAS, YOU WERE, HE\SHE\IT WAS etc?
    Non significa "spero che ero"
    Vi ringrazio anticipatamente per la risposta,
  21. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I wish I were è congiuntivo (were in tutte le persone). Ormai molti dicono I wish I was e If I was..., ma were è preferibile.
  22. Citrinette

    Citrinette Senior Member

    Ravenna, Italy
    Canadian, English

    I knew that "I wish I were" is the english conjunctive however I had also heard that "I wish I was" was just the regular rule of conditional. So I think both are correct.
  23. kan3malato

    kan3malato Senior Member

    In my opinion it's more like" Magari!! fossi...."
  24. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    Both aren't correct by English grammar rules, but both are accepted by way of popular usage. I'm afraid it's not conditional, though.

    EDIT: I think kaineggs means Spero ce ero =I wish I was, while Magari se fossi - I wish I were
  25. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    Ciao, Citrinette. Have you been in Ravenna so long that you follow the Italian convention of not capitalizing foreign language names? Nice! ;)

  26. susanna.3 Member

    Italiano Italia
    Ciao, in realtà l'uso di wish in questa forma si usa per qualcosa di cui siamo dispiaciuti:

    You regret (are sorry about) a present situation

    I wish+past simple

    I wish I was/were taller
    I wish I brought the washer in

    Nell'ultimo esame che ho dato was/were erano accettati allo stesso modo anche se facevano notare che were sarebbe più corretto.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2013
  27. Salegrosso Senior Member

    Napoli (Italy)
    Verona (Italy)
    What's the third, correct one?
  28. ElaineG

    ElaineG Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    No, no, "I wish I were" is correct.

    LSP was replying to Citrinette's statement that "both are correct."

    She intended "both are not correct, only one of them is."
  29. Salegrosso Senior Member

    Napoli (Italy)
    Verona (Italy)
    Ah, ok... I didn't read carefully the previous post, sorry.
  30. _forumuser_

    _forumuser_ Senior Member

    New York City
    In a world where many barriers have fallen, many feel embarrassed to show they care about speaking "properly". I do too, sometimes, and deliberately choose the form that doesn't stand out in the situation I am in, right or wrong. The important thing, however, is to be natural when you use the subjunctive and not sound like you are applying the rule from the grammar book. If you do that, nobody will even notice you are using the "proper" form.
  31. k_georgiadis

    k_georgiadis Senior Member

    NJ, USA
    English (AE)
    If I were Italian, I would apply the congiuntivo religiously where it is called for. ;)
  32. macforever Senior Member

    Riprendo la scia di un vecchio thread per dire che ho letto la seguente frase:
    I wish I had been born rich: I could have afforded a new car!
    Nella speranza che questo punto non sia già stato discusso nei termini in cui lo pongo io (non l'ho trovato nella funzione di ricerca), mi domandavo se il verbo indicato in corsivo potesse essere correttamente sostituito da un "I wish I was/were born".
  33. Teerex51

    Teerex51 Senior Member

    Milan, Italy
    Mac, la risposta è no -- se vuoi usare il tempo verbale corretto (e gli errori nel formulare questa frase sono all'ordine del giorno, che parli un native speaker o meno)

    • I wish I had been born [rich] --> vorrei essere nato [ricco]
    • I wish I had never been born --> vorrei non essere mai nato
    • I wish I were/was born [again] --> vorrei nascere [di nuovo/rinascere]
  34. macforever Senior Member

    Ciao Teerex51. Sono d'accordo con te. Sai, a forza di sentire cose non proprio esatte da parte di tutti, alla fine ti poni qualche problema.
    Il grande Neil Young, in una sua famosa canzone, diceva I wish i was a trapper...
    Ho notato che i moderni manuali di grammatica inglese, hanno ormai sdoganato come assolutamente corretto l'uso di I wish I was.
    Thank you:)
  35. Teerex51

    Teerex51 Senior Member

    Milan, Italy
    Prego Mac :)

    E' un po' come who e whom. La battaglia è quasi persa, almeno nell'inglese parlato...;)
  36. london calling Senior Member

    I'm still up and fighting!:D My flesh crawls if I hear anyone say "I wish I was....":D
  37. kc1005 Senior Member

    English - United States
    Me too! I hear my high school students say this all the time...and so many people accept, and even believe that "I wish I was" is correct! It bothers me as well and I'm always correcting them!
  38. smashee New Member

    Bologna, Italia
    English - Canada
    I think of "I were" as being similar to "io fossi"

    Ad esempio: "Se fossi in te" ("If I were you)

    If I were to jump of a bridge, I would drown...probably.
    If I were "to do something", then "this thing/person" would "happen/be".
  39. jumpinjellyfish New Member

    British English
    Far be it from me;) to stick my oar in but 'If i were' gets my vote everytime.

    Other examples where it would be difficult if not impossible to substitute the subjunctive are:

    Were I to get off the bus now...
    Were he to know....
    Notice how using 'was' instead of were in that last example changes the meaning entirely.
    Were he to know, he would have a fit.
    Was he to know? I really can't say.
  40. Teerex51

    Teerex51 Senior Member

    Milan, Italy
    And right you are, Smashee, seeing as it's the exact translation of it. :D

    But, as far as the jumping part goes, you jump off a bridge. ;)

    ..and welcome to this three-ring circus...
  41. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I've noticed that various text-books for teaching Eglish to adults don't bother to say there's a different form for the past subjunctive of "to be"; they don't even talk about indicative and subjunctive and just say "past simple". I don't know if it's because the authors speak this way or because they're afraid of overloading the students.:(

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