Davyne DeSye: Grammar Tips
Which of the following is the correct phraseology?
-- "If Ted were here, I could ask him."
-- "If Ted was here, I could ask him."
Answer: Both, depending on the meaning of the speaker.
In the first statement, the subjunctive form of the verb is used, which indicates that the speaker wishes Ted could be there, but that this is not possible. (Ted is dead, or Ted is in Africa and won't be back for a month.)
In the second statement, the indicative form of the verb is used, which indicates that it is quite possible for Ted to be there. (Ted is late, or Ted is usually there.)
"If I were Jane, I would never forgive Bill." (I can't be Jane, so we use the subjunctive.)
"If he was late, he could have missed the phone call. (It is quite possible he was late, so we use the indicative.)
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