1. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Was and Were

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Oct 8, 2009.

    Like most grammatical rules that trip me up, I'm sure this is very basic stuff, but I need to ask anyway.

    What is the difference between Was and Were, and when should I use each?

    Take this paragraph from Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend

    Now I know that if I'd been writing this sentence I'd've wanted to say 'was', because that's how I'd say the sentence aloud. Why is 'were' correct here?
     
  2. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's probably correct, though it certainly doesn't sound like it is... here's one explanation of the difference from writersdigest.com:

     
  3. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, mammamaia, but I'm still not sure I understand. Rather ironically in cases like this, if I understood the answer you've quoted, I wouldn't have had to ask the initial question. Subjunctive, Indicative... it's all too advanced for me, I'm afraid.
     
  4. dgraham

    dgraham Senior Member

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    "subjunctive" just means hypothetical. ie, something that is just a possibility... So, it's usually preceded by "if I/he/she/it..."

    Also, the use "were" for subjunctive is falling out of common use, so you can get away with saying it either way, really.
     
  5. HorusEye

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    "I wished I were Santa, but I was not."

    Would be correct?

    Being Santa = Hypothetical
    Is not Santa = Fact
     
  6. architectus

    architectus Banned

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    Basically, if a statement starts with a wish or an if, most likely you will use were.

    If I were to travel to Spain, I would . . .
    I wish I were fifty-feet tall so I could squash the temple under foot.
    I wished I were Santa. << I'm pretty sure "were" is used here not becaue Santa is unreal, but becaue I wished something.
    I wished I were a cat.
    I wished I were the president.
    If I were a girl, I would . . .
    He wished he were rich.
    If she were to fall . . .
     
  7. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, horus... that's right...
     
  8. Rawne

    Rawne Member

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    I wondered if you were from northern England as soon as I saw the title of the the thread. I've got a mate from Liverpool and he has exactly the same problem. This doesn't help in any way, I just thought I'd mention it. Funnily enough, people from Leeds seem to say "were" all the time.
     

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