Were I you, I wouldn't do it. ??

kuleshov

Senior Member
Spain Spanish
I've been told that you can use inverted conditionals like the one in the heading: Were I you, I wouldn't do it. instead of the typical If I were you, I wouldn't do it. In my perception such structure doesn't exist in English. I know the typical formal inversion: Were she to find out the truth, I would be embarrassed. But I've never heard it without the infinitive.

Can anyone throw some light?? :confused:
 
  • Forero

    Senior Member
    Yes, we do use "were I you" this way, but "if I were you" is more common. "If I were you" is so often used to give advice, I would use "were I you" for the more literal meaning. "Were I not ..." is also fairly common:

    Were I not your father, I would not be concerned about what you wear.
     

    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    I don't think I've personally ever used the expression "Were I you", but it is definitely correct. It sounds more formal to my ears than "If I were you". I believe I use "If I were you" in both contexts (mentioned by Forero above).
     

    kuleshov

    Senior Member
    Spain Spanish
    Thanks a lot!

    I've also found an explanation in The Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. On page 919 it says that we can use were + subject in formal writing, but it is restricted to subjunctive were. It gives examples:
    Were it running more slowly, all geologic activity would have proceeded at a slower pace.
    "I would be more hopeful," Sandy said, "were it not for the problem of your testimony."

    I thought it only worked with were + subject + to infinitive...
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    We don't say "Were I you", but I think that is just because "If I were you" is the standard idiom and collocation.

    This is, after all, a highly idiomatic usage - meaning that the words understood independently of the idiom don't make much sense, and certainly don't mean what the idiom means. We don't go around saying If chalk were cheese I'd eat my hat.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think it's partly to do with how 'were I you' is so short. Similarly 'were I her' or 'were I a dog'. I am undecided about 'were I her father'. But Forero's 'were I not your father' and kuleshov's examples (post 4) are definitely OK.
     
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