Were I you, I wouldn't do it.

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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.
     

    Mendi_05

    New Member
    Spanish
    I've got C2 level, and they've taught me to use were I you instead of if I were you. Just like instead of because: use due to, on the grounds that, etc.
     

    TheEnglishCondor

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would not use "Were I you...." but I have used "Were I to be you...". As others have said, "If I were you.." is more common.
     

    TheEnglishCondor

    Senior Member
    British English
    I find Were I too be you very questionable. It seems to imply that I really could be you.

    Were I you/if I were you - are established forms that mean "if I were in your situation".

    Conversely, if one inverted the sentence "If I go to the shops later, I would buy the book" you would not say "Were I go to the shops later, I would buy the book", you would however say "Were I to go to the shops later, I would buy the book."
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Sure, I didn't mean to imply that "Were I you" is in common use, but it is at least a possibility.

    *Were I to be you... isn't analogous to Were I to go to the shops..., so I don't see your point, TEC.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I find Were I too be you very questionable. It seems to imply that I really could be you.

    Were I you/if I were you - are established forms that mean "if I were in your situation".
    I see "were I to be you" as less connected to reality as we know it than "if I were you". It means something like "if I were to become you" or "if it were possible for me to be you".
    Conversely, if one inverted the sentence "If I go to the shops later, I would buy the book" you would not say "Were I go to the shops later, I would buy the book", you would however say "Were I to go to the shops later, I would buy the book."
    Both "were I you" and "were I to be you" are grammatical, and "were I to go later" is grammatical, but "were I go later" is not.

    In former times, we might have said "were I to the shops later" or even "Went I to the shops later", but nowadays we don't mix up "be" and "go" and only a few verbs can jump the subject to replace "if": only "were", "should", and "had", I think:

    Were I to go to the shops later, ....:tick:
    Should I go to the shops later, ....:tick:
    Had I the opportunity to go to the shops later ....:tick:
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I've got C2 level, and they've taught me to use were I you instead of if I were you. Just like instead of because: use due to, on the grounds that, etc.
    Welcome.:)

    What's C2 level, please, and who are 'they'? Native speakers of English? I agree with the others that "Were I you (I wouldn't do it)" sounds very formal and unlikely to be used much at all: I would venture to say 'never' in contemporary spoken English.
     
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