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Which is right: I wish it were… or I wish it was…?

There is often confusion about were (a past subjunctive) and was (a past indicative) after wish. In conditional sentences where the condition is unreal or not yet real and in that clauses after to wish, use were: I wish it were true that he loved me. Were is also used following “as if” and “as though”: The toddler wore the towel proudly, as though it were a Superman cape. Were can also be part of fixed expressions: as it were, if I were you.

These sentences are in the subjunctive mood, used mainly to express a speaker’s attitude about the likelihood or reality of a situation. If the sentence was in the indicative mood, then a sentence would read like this: I wish she was coming to the party. Was has many other uses, e.g., The viewing audience wanted to know if the actress was pregnant. So, the traditional rule requires one to use were rather than was in a contrary-to-fact statement that follows the verb wish. Though many still use this “rule”, the indicative was in such clauses can be found almost as often.

5 Comments

  1. Jeremiah Mahlaule -  November 18, 2016 - 7:52 am

    If he were, I wish she were, is very interesting English language. I wasn’t know these, I came across these kinds of words this week. I am interested to learn English almost and every day.

    Reply
    • Joan -  November 28, 2016 - 6:19 pm

      Most Americans don’t know or understand these rules. English is complicated. I actually learned many English rules by studying other languages which means you may understand many parts of grammar that many of our Americans don’t. I’m appalled at times by the bad grammar used here. Good luck!!

      Reply
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    My colleagues needed CA DMV REG 256 last year and were told about a web service that hosts a huge forms library . If people require CA DMV REG 256 too , here’s https://goo.gl/bCJX8r.

    Reply
  3. Pedro -  August 14, 2016 - 4:37 pm

    In your sentence “If the sentence was in the indicative mood, then a sentence would read like this” the verb is also in subjunctive mood, so the sentecense should be “If the sentence WERE in the ….” but I think that both forms are alllowed.

    Reply
    • Buddy -  October 18, 2016 - 3:45 pm

      Incorrect Pedro!

      “These sentences are in the subjunctive mood, used mainly to express a speaker’s attitude about the likelihood or reality of a situation.”

      There is no attempt to express the speaker’s attitude about anything in that situation. It is a statement about how the language is used, there is no subjunctive mood in the sentence.

      Reply

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