I would be dead / was dead if he knew

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Senior Member

Should I say "would be dead" or "was dead" in this case?

I just told my best friend a big secret.
Anna: Does Tom know about this?
Me: Of course not. You're the only one I've ever told.I would be/was dead if he knew.

Are they both okay? What do you say?
I think native speakers use "would be" in the subjective mood. Can we use "was"? Is that even possible?

Thanks so much!
  • idialegre

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "Was" is wrong.

    There is no such thing as "subjective mood." Perhaps you mean "subjunctive," but "I would be" is not the subjunctive mood. It is the conditional mood.

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Subjective or subjunctive mood, GH? A typo, maybe? ;)The subjunctive mood certainly exists, in your example sentence if he knew is subjunctive (even if it takes the same form as the past tense). It could be re-phrased: If he were to know/find out.

    I agree with idialegre, in any case: 'was' is incorrect here.:)
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