wondering if it < were/would > be a good idea

quiteinteresting

Senior Member
German - Germany
Topic sentence: I'm wondering if it were/would be a good idea to ask someone for mediation.
Copied from original title. Cagey, moderator

Hello! I have now been thinking about these two forms in the sentence above (were = past subjunctive; would be = conditional I) for a while but can't decide which one to use or whether both of them might be appropriate under certain circumstances. Any advice would be highly appreciated. 🤗
 
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  • cidertree

    Senior Member
    Béarla na hÉireann (Hiberno-English)
    I'm not one for subjunctives but, I wouldn't use were - is would fit there nicely. Would be is well placed.

    Which one to use depends on what you want to express. What time are you talking from? Are you about to ask someone for meditation, or simply thinking it over?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    What follows "I wonder if" = "I wonder whether" has to be able to stand on its own:

    It were a good idea to ask someone for mediation.:cross:
    It would be a good idea to ask someone for mediation.:tick:


    It is "conditional mood".

    Note: We might sometimes use subjunctive after "whether", but only when "whether" means something like "regardless" or "no matter" and is followed by "or" indicating a choice. But even in that environment past subjunctive is extremely rare.

    Whether it be a good idea or not, you need to ask someone for mediation. [Possible, but unusual, in present tense. "Whether it is" would be more common.]
    Whether it were a good idea or not, you needed to ask someone for mediation. [Very unusual past tense version. "Whether it was" would be much more common.]
     

    quiteinteresting

    Senior Member
    German - Germany
    I'm not one for subjunctives but, I wouldn't use were - is would fit there nicely. Would be is well placed.

    Which one to use depends on what you want to express. What time are you talking from? Are you about to ask someone for meditation, or simply thinking it over?
    Thank you! In this particular context, it's just thinking about mediation as an option.
     

    quiteinteresting

    Senior Member
    German - Germany
    What follows "I wonder if" = "I wonder whether" has to be able to stand on its own:

    It were a good idea to ask someone for mediation.:cross:
    It would be a good idea to ask someone for mediation.:tick:


    It is "conditional mood".

    Fantastic! That's an excellent idea to check if it works on its own.

    Note: We might sometimes use subjunctive after "whether", but only when "whether" means something like "regardless" or "no matter" and is followed by "or" indicating a choice. But even in that environment past subjunctive is extremely rare.

    Whether it be a good idea or not, you need to ask someone for mediation. [Possible, but unusual, in present tense. "Whether it is" would be more common.]
    Whether it were a good idea or not, you needed to ask someone for mediation. [Very unusual past tense version. "Whether it was" would be much more common.]
    I see! So, indicative mood would usually be the form to go with. 😄
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Topic sentence: I'm wondering if it were/would be a good idea to ask someone for mediation.
    Copied from original title. Cagey, moderator

    Hello! I have now been thinking about these two forms in the sentence above (were = past subjunctive; would be = conditional I) for a while but can't decide which one to use or whether both of them might be appropriate under certain circumstances. Any advice would be highly appreciated. 🤗
    What some people call "past subjunctive were" has a very limited distribution: it appears in counterfactual if constructions, as in:

    If it were a good idea to ask someone for mediation, I would've done it (= it's not a good idea to ask someone for mediation).

    In your example, the "if" part is subordinate to the verb "wondering," but "wondering" is not counterfactual; the verb simply expresses curiosity. Thus, "were" feels distinctly out of place. Use "would be:"

    I'm wondering if it's a good idea to ask someone for mediation.
     

    quiteinteresting

    Senior Member
    German - Germany
    If it were a good idea to ask someone for mediation, I would've done it (= it's not a good idea to ask someone for mediation).
    Thank you! 😄 I also found another use of the subjunctive in conditional clauses:
    The past subjunctive is often used when giving advice to someone, especially about what the person should do.
    If I were you, I’d tell them the truth.
    Source: What are conditional clauses in English? | Learning English Grammar | Collins Education
     
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