If he was rich, he would've bought a yacht.

Hello everyone!

As far as I understand it, there are two and only two correct ways to express our thoughts when we talk about possibilities. Here is what I mean:
  1. If he were rich, he would buy a yacht (present possibility).
  2. If he had been rich, he would have bought a yacht (past possibility).

But I have been observing a lot of Americans, in real life and through TV, radio, etc, and I have found out that people actually use all kinds of variants:
  1. If he was rich, he would buy a yacht.
  2. If he was rich, he would have bought a yacht.
Technically, these uses are wrong, aren't they? Or do they just convey different meanings, which I do not get? Could you please elaborate on that?

Thanks.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'Were' is never required. Some people use 'were' some of the time, for various degrees of unlikeliness. 'Was' is 100% correct under all circumstances (except inversion 'were he' = "if he was/were"). The choice of tenses in different parts of the conditional is another matter. Start by reviewing previous threads for was/were.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    1. If he was rich, he would buy a yacht.
    2. If he was rich, he would have bought a yacht.
    Technically, these uses are wrong, aren't they?
    No, they are not wrong at all, the way I see them.
    1. If he was rich, he would buy a yacht. - a very boring, unremarkable 2nd conditional :) Means he is not a rich man, so he will not buy a yacht, though he probably wants to have one.
    2. If he was rich, he would have bought a yacht - a mixed conditional; he is not a rich man generally, which is why he did not buy a yacht [on some specific past occasion of which both listener and speaker are probably aware].
     
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