The irrealis “were” can say hello to the Dodo
Reader Mariana Blaser recently brought up the question of the subjunctive use of were. She gave the following examples:
“If she were younger, she would have enjoyed that trip.”
“I wish I were stronger.” or “He wished he were stronger.”
Somehow the second sentence feels odd to me. Using the verb flexed in the plural form with “wish” should also be used with “he”, “she” and (eventually) “it”?
Before I could respond, she found her own answer in an article by Jan Freeman in the Boston Globe.
I’m happy to say I anticipated this verdict in my post on subjunctive were:
To a large extent, English speakers don’t pay much attention to the subjunctive.
The upshot of the Globe article is that although sites like this one still offer guidelines for its use, the subjunctive use of were is is a non-issue.
According to Geoffrey Pullum, co-author of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language and a linguist at Edinburgh University, we can substitute was for subjunctive were in any context.
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