If only your father was/were here

candefv

Senior Member
Argentina
hey!
is it the same to use was or were in a "if only" clause?

If only your father were here! = If only your father was here!

If only I were better looking! = If only i was better looking!

And is the second clause of this sentence correct?

If only I were better looking I could have a boyfriend!

I am not sure about "could"...

Thanks in advance!!

Cande...
 
  • deslenguada

    Senior Member
    Castellano
    hey!
    is it the same to use was or were in a "if only" clause?

    If only your father were here!:tick: = If only your father was here!:cross:

    If only I were better looking! :tick: = If only i was better looking!:cross:

    And is the second clause of this sentence correct?

    If only I were better looking I could have a boyfriend!:tick:

    I am not sure about "could"...

    Thanks in advance!!

    Cande...


    Me suena mucho mejor decir "If I were only ..."

    Es posible que veas "was" usado como subjuntivo igual que se hace en pasado, pero eso es jerga y está mal, las personas en singular y en subjuntivo siempre van con "were", esta jerga se da predominantemente en los Estados Unidos, pero no es exclusivo.
     

    Bil

    Banned
    English USA
    Sí, lo correcto gramaticalmente sería el uso del subjuntivo "were." Y en la cláusula principal se puede usar la condicional "could" o el pretérito de will, "would," lo que en este contexto expresa el futuro.
     

    MrsCairns

    Senior Member
    English UK
    'were' is grammatically correct. However, in relaxed, normal speech, most native speakers use 'was'.
     

    Lowie94

    New Member
    English - US
    This is a great example of why many native English speakers find the subjunctive mood difficult to learn in Spanish. The subjunctive rarely comes up in English usage and, as MrsCairns just mentioned, we frequently don't bother using the subjunctive even when it would be grammatically correct to do so! Here in the US, the "if only + were" construction might even seem pretentious in some circles (although I use it all the time).
     

    seanieseans

    New Member
    English
    This is a great example of why many native English speakers find the subjunctive mood difficult to learn in Spanish. The subjunctive rarely comes up in English usage and, as MrsCairns just mentioned, we frequently don't bother using the subjunctive even when it would be grammatically correct to do so! Here in the US, the "if only + were" construction might even seem pretentious in some circles (although I use it all the time).
    I agree with your comment about English speakers having difficulty with subjunctive verb tense.
    However, "If/Were" indicates the Conditional verb tense, not subjunctive.
     

    Cholo234

    Senior Member
    American English
    is it the same to use was or were in a "if only" clause?

    If only your father were here! = If only your father was here!

    If only I were better looking! = If only i was better looking!

    "We can use If only . . . ! to say that we would like things to be different. It means the same as I wish . . . but is more emphatic. The clause with if only often stands alone, without a main clause.

    If only I knew more people! If only I was better-looking!

    is it the same to use was or were in a "if only" clause?

    We can use were instead of was.
    If only your father were here!

    Practical English Usage

    I were and he/she/it were, used for example after if and wish in a formal style, are also subjunctives.
    If I were you.. I should stop smoking.
    I wish it were Saturday.


    "The subjunctive mood is a non-factual mood and is very rare in English. It refers to wishes, desires, etc. It is used after a very limited number of verbs (e.g. suggest, insist, recommend, demand), occasionally after conditional subordinators (e.g. if, lest, on condition that, whether) and occasionally after expressions of necessity (e.g. it is important/imperative/essential that)."

    The Cambridge Grammar of English (159e)

    In most informal contexts, indicative forms of be are preferred, except for the semi-fixed expression if I were you:

    If she was to sell her place now, she'd probably make a big profit. (preferred to: If she were to sell . . .)

    If I were you, I'd book a taxi the night before.

    The Cambridge Grammar of English (458)
     
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    seanieseans

    New Member
    English
    "We can use If only . . . ! to say that we would like things to be different. It means the same as I wish . . . but is more emphatic. The clause with if only often stands alone, without a main clause.

    If only I knew more people! If only I was better-looking!

    We can use were instead of was.
    If only your father were here!

    Practical English Usage

    I were and he/she/it were, used for example after if and wish in a formal style, are also subjunctives.
    If I were you.. I should stop smoking.
    I wish it were Saturday.


    "The subjunctive mood is a non-factual mood and is very rare in English. It refers to wishes, desires, etc. It is used after a very limited number of verbs (e.g. suggest, insist, recommend, demand), occasionally after conditional subordinators (e.g. if, lest, on condition that, whether) and occasionally after expressions of necessity (e.g. it is important/imperative/essential that)."

    The Cambridge Grammar of English
    If / then is not the subjunctive form of verb, rather it’s the conditional form.
    “If dad Were here, then he would (auxiliary verb) explain (infinitive verb tense) verb conjugation better.”
     

    Cholo234

    Senior Member
    American English
    "We sometimes construct sentences with if . . . then to emphasize that one thing depends on another.
    If she can't come to us, then we'll have to go and see her."

    Practical English Usage (261.9)

    Here in the US, the "if only + were" construction might even seem pretentious in some circles (although I use it all the time).

    "After if, the subjunctive forms were and be are sometimes used in second conditional sentences in very formal contexts. Were is used in hypothetical conditionals, be tends to be used more in real conditionals.
    If there were any reason to doubt his word, we would ask him to resign.
    I am delighted to see you again, even if it be under such tragic circumstances.


    Cambridge Grammar of English (458)
     
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    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Is it the same to use was or were in a "if only" clause?
    No, only the subjunctive "were" is grammatically correct (despite what native speakers may use). The "only" clearly posits a hypothetical situation, which triggers the subjunctive in English just as it does in Spanish.

    However, "if" alone does not necessarily trigger the subjunctive. Consider the following.

    If he was rich, why did he live under the freeway?
    If he were rich, he would not live under the freeway.

    In the first, there is no hypothesis, and the speaker is merely using an if/then construction.
    In the second, the hypothesis is that of being rich.

    "If/Were" indicates the Conditional verb tense, not subjunctive.
    I'm afraid you are mistaken. "Were" in this context is most certainly the subjunctive mood, and not a conditional form. Besides, the conditional is called a mood, and is not a tense, as it has nothing to do with time.
     

    seanieseans

    New Member
    English
    No, only the subjunctive "were" is grammatically correct (despite what native speakers may use). The "only" clearly posits a hypothetical situation, which triggers the subjunctive in English just as it does in Spanish.

    However, "if" alone does not necessarily trigger the subjunctive. Consider the following.

    If he was rich, why did he live under the freeway?
    If he were rich, he would not live under the freeway.

    In the first, there is no hypothesis, and the speaker is merely using an if/then construction.
    In the second, the hypothesis is that of being rich.


    I'm afraid you are mistaken. "Were" in this context is most certainly the subjunctive mood, and not a conditional form. Besides, the conditional is called a mood, and is not a tense, as it has nothing to do with time.
    You are correct. I apologize for the mistake! I assumed subjunctive and conditional were used the same in English and French, but they are not. Thank you for taking the time to teach me right! I am grateful.

    Explanation of English vs. French subjunctive is in link:

    Difference between English and French in the use of subjunctive mood in counter factual protasis
     
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