If I were/If I be/If I am

CH3353C@K3

Member
English - United States
Examples are shown.

1. If I were the president, then I would pass a bill that prohibits littering in public places. :tick: Past Subjunctive

2. If I be the president, then I would pass a bill that prohibits littering in public places. :tick: Present Subjunctive

3. If I am the president, then I would pass a bill that prohibits littering in public places. :cross: Incorrect Conjugation

As a native English speaker myself, I typically use 1 and 2, because I think the subjunctive usage of to be goes there. Number 3 sounds intuitively wrong to me, but my judgment is not conclusive, so please interpret the check marks as my judgments, not as a final pronouncement. I wish to know whether I am conjugating correctly or whether the correct usage is actually 3.
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello CH3353C@K3

    I'm surprised that you find (2) correct. "If I be" could have worked in older versions of English, but not, I'd have thought, in today's English. I'd also have thought that, even in older English, "if I be" would not have been followed by "would".
     
    Last edited:

    CH3353C@K3

    Member
    English - United States
    Hello CH3353C@K3

    I'm surprised that you find (2) correct. It could have worked in older versions of English, but not, I'd have thought, in today's English. I'd also have thought that, even in older English, "if I be" would not have been followed by "would".
    Pardon my English. I've taken Spanish as a foreign language in school, and that language has had an influence over my English. So, I tend to apply the same rules to English as I would in Spanish. Plus, I've read a Wiki article that actually talks about the subjunctive mood in English with examples. Though, it doesn't really say anything about modern use versus archaic use, which then leads me to think that the correct conjugation of to be in the above context has to be were or be, not am.

    Now that you've mentioned it, I will keep that in mind and use that instead.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    1) is correct; 2) is impossible. 3) can be used very informally, but not with "would":

    3. If I am the president, then I pass a bill that prohibits littering in public places.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    (1) is perfectly correct, although people do say it wrongly as "If I was the president ..."

    (2) is odd. Leaving aside the famous quotation "If music be the food of love ... ", no-one much uses the present subjunctive like that in if-clauses in modern English.

    (3) has an incorrect mix of tenses, but it would work as "If I am the president, then I will pass a bill that prohibits littering in public places". :)
     
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