English is a Funny Language

Location: Santa Clara, California, United States

Programmer, Student, Chess Fan, Cricket Fan, Avid Biker, Dad, Husband, Book Junkie

Saturday, October 15, 2005

If Was If Were ...

We use were when the subjunctive mood needs to be expressed. But was does NOT become were when there is a possibility that the contrary has happened.

  • If Joanne were going, I would see the movie. (I know Joanne is not going).
  • I would have walked if the bar were nearby. (The bar is far away).
  • He would have donated money if he were earning. (He lost his job).
Was remains was:
  • If it was a silver BMW, it could be Byron's. (It might be Byron's).
  • If the war was for oil, it was unfortunate. (Oil may have been a factor for fighting the war).

Woe Is I - Patricia O'Connor

This is a blog dedicated to my findings from this delightful book. Note that the blog is by no means (Patricia would comment -- just say "not") a replacement of the book. Do get the book and read it. This is a sort of ready reckoner that can (could?) work as a reference. My friend Byron has given me a two-week deadline to read it. I thought blogging as I read will be fun and hence the blog.

Wishful Thinking ...

In English, it is a special arrangement to express wishful thinking. A modified grammar applies. Thus, I wish I were a millionaire and not I wish I was a millionaire. Other examples ...
  • I wish I were in India. (I am not in India).
  • I wish the water were cleaner. (The water is not as clean).
  • He wished he were playing chess. (He is not playing chess).