1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Was / were

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Jul 30, 2015.

    Very quick one, please.

    Which is correct:

    There were four of us, in all

    There was four of us, in all

    ??

    If you can offer a quick and concise explanation it would be helpful, although just the answer will suffice.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Were. Four is plural. Us is also plural, but it's subordinate behind a prepositional clause.

    There were four of us to start. Three died. There was only one of us left.
     
  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, Wreybies. I had gone with 'were', but couldn't trust my instinct.
     
  4. AspiringNovelist
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    AspiringNovelist Contributing Member

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    This question relates to subject and verb agreement, was/were and four. When a sentence begins with there or here, the actual subject is considered to be the word or words following the verb. Use a singular verb if the actual subject is singular and a plural verb if the actual subject is plural.
     
  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rephrasing sentences like those often reveals the answer intuitively:

    In all, four of us were there.
    In all, four of us was there.
     
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  6. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    Confusion arises because of the way we tend to speak. So natural to say, If I were you, instead of, If I was you.
     
  7. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Indeed. I hear the former so much more than the latter - which begs the question why, when the latter is the correct one?
     
  8. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    That's a different grammar rule again, apparently.
     
  9. S Raven
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    S Raven Member

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    Confusion arises because of the way we tend to speak. So natural to say, If I were you, instead of, If I was you.

    Second conditionals should really use I were, to make it clear you're using a hypothetical situation. Over the past few years I was has been used more, kind-of blurring the boundary between them.

    Personally I prefer I were.
     
  10. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I'll quit trying to understand the English language. It's far too confusing.
     
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  11. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stick the word in a character's gob and you can break the rules, though it is a risk up top of piece.

    My father were a Yorkshireman, had many strange dialectical quirks. Another, for example - English people eat 'egg and chips.' He would say 'chip and egg.' I inserted this phrase of his into a 'misery memoir' that were published, by the way - a while back, and the sub-editor corrected my voice. I were heart-broken. She changed it back when I squealed.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2015
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  12. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    You do know that Robert Mugabe is a Yorkshireman?

    Read his name backwards - 'E ba gum.

    I'll get me coat.
     
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  13. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am no English expert but I thought the usage of were was driven by the "you" which is a plural reference with the ability to also refer to a single entity.
     
  14. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    It simply happens that the past subjunctive of "be" has the same inflection as the past indicative plural of "be".
     
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