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  • Liechtenstein
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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If I was/were
« on: January 13, 2021, 02:12:32 pm »
I have always been taught that the answer to a question such as:

I don't know whether I should order steak or pasta. What do you think?

If I were you, I'd order steak.

But I just over the past couple of days have been obsessing trying to figure out why. I asked my boss, PhD English Lit., and he didn't really know but checked it out and told me that the correct response is, "If I was you..." not "were"

Is this a tomato tomato thing? Like toe may toe vs toe mah toe


  • Adel
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2021, 02:19:45 pm »
Just google '2nd conditional' and focus on the hypothetical situation!


  • Liechtenstein
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2021, 02:43:09 pm »
Yeah...that doesn't seem to answer my question at all.


  • 303lmc
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2021, 02:47:53 pm »
if i were you, i would... is what i would say as an NET. is it correct?? IDK!


  • Adel
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2021, 02:51:22 pm »
The Second Conditional
The second conditional uses the past simple after if, then 'would' and the infinitive:

if + past simple, ...would + infinitive
(We can use 'were' instead of 'was' with 'I' and 'he/she/it'. This is mostly done in formal writing).

Second, we can use it to talk about something in the present which is impossible, because it's not true or hypothetical. Is that clear? Have a look at the examples:

If I had his number, I would call him. (I don't have his number now, so it's impossible for me to call him).
If I were you, I wouldn't go out with that man. (I am not you, so this is hypothetical)

https://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/second-conditional.html


hypothetical
adjective
: imagined or suggested but not necessarily real or true:
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/hypothetical


« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 02:59:07 pm by Adel »


  • Liechtenstein
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2021, 03:22:49 pm »
I'm still not sure that answers my question :-)


  • Adel
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2021, 03:38:44 pm »
I'm still not sure that answers my question :-)




Quote
If I were you, I'd order steak.

Is it possible for me to be you? answer: no

Therefore the second clause is hypothetical.

However, the second clause 'I'd ( I would) order steak' is dependent on the first clause (If I were you) in this sentence.

When we use 'were' rather than 'was' we indicate that a hypothetical clause will follow. (even though some of us are not aware of it because it was fused into our grey matter as infants developing our native language)

In English we call this two clause type structure headed with an 'If' a  second conditional.

As with any kind of conditional, be it a 1st, 2nd or 3rd, the second clause is dependant on the condition in the the first clause. 

Sorry, that's all I got. I'm going to eat my dinner of roast potatoes but not tomatoes!


« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 03:54:13 pm by Adel »


  • stoat
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2021, 04:43:17 pm »
'Were' is technically correct due to an old fashioned use of the subjunctive form. 'Was' is widely enough used in spoken English as to be standard.


  • Adel
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2021, 04:57:18 pm »
'Were' is technically correct due to an old fashioned use of the subjunctive form. 'Was' is widely enough used in spoken English as to be standard.

Where I come from 'was' is also often used is these type of clause constructions. However, it typically signals either a lack of education or not giving a flying f**k.

My potatoes were lovely by the way!


  • oglop
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2021, 06:53:46 pm »
outside the set expression "if i were you..." the subjunctive is not really used anymore, from my experience. sounds pretty old-fashioned (even if technically correct)
« Last Edit: January 14, 2021, 08:04:16 am by oglop »


  • Adel
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2021, 07:01:09 pm »
Corpus linguistics dude!

https://netspeak.org/#q=If+I+%3F
« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 07:04:03 pm by Adel »


  • oglop
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2021, 07:12:34 pm »
i should have added in spoken english. "were" might be used more in written language, yes. also the top result seems to be "if i were you" which is what i just said seems to have become a set expression
« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 07:14:55 pm by oglop »


  • Mr C
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Re: If I was/were
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2021, 07:39:23 am »
Surely this question was answered by the first response.

Unless the real question was "Grammar, why?"
Mr. C is not a bad person, in fact is quite a good person here. One of the best people on this forum if you really look at it
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