as though he were/was weary

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Hobbitsnaught, May 21, 2010.

  1. Hobbitsnaught New Member

    Hello, everyone. I have read a some threads about the subjunctive, and sort of have a feeling that using 'as though' in the past calls for using 'were' in these constructions. But I am not one-hundred percent sure. Any advice would be appreciated.

    In my first example, I am not sure if the truthfulness or reality of the situation (his being weary) can really be said to be in doubt. Is there ever a time when using 'as though...' wouldn't call for 'were' in the past?

  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    There is only one situation that requires the irrealis ('subjunctive') form: conditional inversion. 'Were he weary, he would not be walking so fast.' Here 'was' is not possible. In all other circumstances, 'was' is an acceptable standard alternative to irrealis 'were': 'as though he was already weary of the day' is what I would normally say, though I could also use 'were'. It does not matter how hypothetical or unreal the situation is: that, if it does anything, merely increases the likelihood that the irrealis form is used. It does not make it obligatory.
  3. ptetpe Member

    If I may tag along...

    In the sentences at hand, is "had+P.P" another possible alternative?

    More confusing but acceptable examples:

    She treated me as if I was (were) (had been) a stranger.

    He talks as if he has (had) a potato in his mouth.

    How do native speakers decide when to use what? Thanks!
    Last edited: May 21, 2010
  4. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm sorry ptetpe: "had +past participle" wouldn't work for me. In practice, I think I'd use "was" in all three of Hobbitsnaught's examples.

    I agree with etb's excellent explanation.
  5. ptetpe Member

    Thanks for your prompt reply.

    Maybe my question regarding tense/aspect after "as if/as though" will be clearer if I present the context:
    In this article:

    What's on native speaker's mind in choosing the different tense/aspect after "as if"?

    He was 23 at the time and I was 53, yet it seemed as if the ages were reversed.

    I put him on a precarious pedestal, as if he had already reached perfection athletically and emotionally, when of course he hadn’t.

    I can’t think of an athlete so firmly attached to his roots, almost as if he is terrified to leave home.

    It was almost as if he was still a student there.

    In missing 11 of the 14 shots he took, he simply looked as if he had given up, astounding not only for James but for any professional athlete competing at the level of the playoffs.
    More confusingly, there is even this: "felt as if she WILL...."

    Many thanks.
    Last edited: May 21, 2010
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Ptetpe, your questions aren't really on topic for this thread: none of your examples concerns selecting between a past indicative and a past subjunctive. But in a nutshell, the choices made in your examples are:
    present ... as though ... present
    past ... as though ... past
    past ... as though ... past perfect (when the comparison is with the outcome of a prior action).

    EDIT: I've now seen your edit. If you want to follow up the point about "felt as if she will", I suggest you open a new thread.
  7. Hobbitsnaught New Member

    Thank you all for the replies. :) 'Was' sounds more natural to me, too... However, I do want to make certain that I really understand the rules of formal usage. I guess what I'm wondering is whether it is good and proper English, or at least the correct use of the subjunctive, to use 'were' in these examples. Is using 'were' in any of my examples wrong?
  8. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    I would probably use were in all of them.

    The possible exception is the first.
    If the next sentence tells us "He had gotten no sleep that night and was every bit as tired as he looked," I would use was.
  9. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    He was walking in the garden, slouching along as though he were/was already weary of the day, when she called out to him from the window.
    She was dead, but it felt as though she were/was alive.
    He was laughing, but his eyes blazed at us as though he were/was full of malice.

    I'm an old-fashioned traditionalist, and I would use "were" in all cases.
  10. Hobbitsnaught New Member


    Does anyone know if there's a web page somewhere that gives really good example sentences of the many varied uses of the subjunctive in all tenses and with explanations? I'd especially like to find examples of more than just the wish/demand usages, in the tenses where the construction differs from the indicative. If someone here could point me toward a comprehensive guide to the correct formal usage or maybe just provide several examples for me (and perhaps explain some of the common pitfalls) I would be most grateful.

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