1. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark

    Was/Were

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by HorusEye, Nov 2, 2009.

    I know this will seem like an amazingly stupid question...

    "Billions. There were one for every person."

    "Billions. There was one for every person."

    My understanding of basic grammar says that the latter is right, but then again... Maybe I just think I've heard the former used.
     
  2. Mister Micawber
    Offline

    Mister Micawber Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2009
    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Yokohama
    With that very obvious 'one' in the predicate, only 'was' seems natural. The plural 'billions' in the previous sentence is really irrelevant, except for a vague notional connection.
     
  3. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    Right, thanks :) Got out of bed too early.
     
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    the only way 'were' would be correct would be in this case:

    "Billions. If there were one for every person,..."
     
  5. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    Ouch. Now you confused me. How's this?
    Now I feel like a 1st grader :confused:
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Subjunctive
     
  7. The-Joker
    Offline

    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2008
    Messages:
    742
    Likes Received:
    35
    Location:
    Africa
    'Billions. If there was one for every person.'

    Would that also be correct?
     
  8. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    Similar to the case of "As it were" ?

    I'm sorry, I don't know what a subjunctive is.
     
  9. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Subjunctive is a keyword you can look up for more understanding. :)
     
  10. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    Help to self-help, I see.

    So be it.

    Thank you.
     
  11. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    The Internet helps those who help themselves. :)
     
  12. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    Well, actually I'm still confused. I read a tutorial on subjunctives that explains it as using the simple form of a verb, to suggest urgency.

    How that changes "was" to "were" by adding "if" is beyond my comprehension.
     
  13. Ghosts in Latin
    Offline

    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    2
    If I'm not mistaken, the relationship between "was" and "were" (aside from singular / plural usage) is that were implies a strict hypothetical while was doesn't.

    "If I were in love with Marylin Monroe. . ." There's little possibility (according to the statement) that I'm in love with Marylin Monroe.
    "If I was in love with Marylin Monroe. . ." This, on the other hand, implies that I may or may not be in love with Marylin Monroe.

    (Now, I've read in some places that claim it's actually grammatically incorrect to use was in a hypothetical, but I'm not sure what the exact rules are.)
     
  14. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    I found a better article on it now that also explained subjunctives in this kind of use.

    Ghosts in Latin: You're right, it's what the article told me too.
    Typical examples given were:

    •if
    •as if
    •wish
    •suppose

    As for the last part, it says that "was" can also be used in a hypothetical meaning, only it's less formal than "were". All except one case -- you would not say "If I was you..."
     
  15. Atari
    Offline

    Atari Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Louisiana
    OK, I'm riding around in this car with this woman that I'm close to a couple times a week. I'm noticing she's looking out of the window and noticing OTHER WOMEN: how this one looks, "Isn't her hair lovely?", "What a nice outfit!"

    I said, "Babe, what is the DEAL?! You're noticing all these other chicks... maybe... you're a lesbian."

    She looks at me and she says, "I wish I was a lesbian!"

    Now, at that point, I wanted to say, "You mean 'you wish you WERE a lesbian' because, grammatically..." But I let it slide; I didn't wanna ruffle any feathers.

    But, y'know, that sentence, that retort, "I wish I was a lesbian"...kinda stuck in the ol' "Laud-lo"'s mind...kinda gestated there for...seven, eight minutes...AND THIS TUNE POPPED OUT!
     

Share This Page