If I were/was... (which one is correct?)

Nick   Tuesday, January 11, 2005, 20:11 GMT
I'm kinda confused with the usage of was and were in some sentences like "If i were you, i wouldn't blah blah" why not: "If I was you,..."?

Ved   Tuesday, January 11, 2005, 21:18 GMT
You can say both, but "If I were you" is considered more formal.
american nic   Wednesday, January 12, 2005, 03:00 GMT
No, you can't say both, unless you want to be considered ignorant or uneducated. It is were instead of was because in the sentence, 'I' am becoming 'you', so it is conjugated into second person. I don't know why, it just is.
Someone   Wednesday, January 12, 2005, 03:50 GMT
"It is were instead of was because in the sentence, 'I' am becoming 'you', so it is conjugated into second person. I don't know why, it just is."

Wrong. "Were" is a subjunctive form.
Camundongo   Friday, January 14, 2005, 22:46 GMT
Both of them are correct in relaxed speech, but IF I WERE YOU is to be used in an essay (along with the formal forms like IT IS I, IT WAS WE/SHE, HE IS TALLER THAN I)

The same is true with I WISH:

I wish I was you (informal, spoken).
I wish I were you (formal, written).

I wish she was here (informal, spoken).
I wish she were here (formal, written).

Both 'IF I WAS YOU' and 'IT'S ME' are considered inelegant/incorrect, by normative grammarians, but are perfectly acceptable in colloquial language.
Tiffany   Friday, January 14, 2005, 23:51 GMT
I vote for saying only "If I were you". It just sounds strange to me said in any other way. Why bother saying the other one if so many people would think that you were speaking incorrectly anyway? By the way, this applies to my colloquial speech too. I'd correct anyone who said "If I was" because I was taught only "If I were".
Jacob   Saturday, January 15, 2005, 00:52 GMT
Eh, it depends on who you're talking to. Grammar snobs demand the subjunctive, "If I were", which is textbook-correct since you're about to make a hypothetical statement. But there are a lot of contexts in which using that form would make you sound out of place. The best thing is to use 'were' in formal and written contexts; otherwise, listen to what the people around you are saying and adapt.
Ved   Saturday, January 15, 2005, 04:39 GMT
Grammar snobs keep swamping us with unjustified prescriptive statements about how we should speak. For instance, some of them stipulate that we should never end a sentence with a preposition. As W. Churchill put it, "this is the kind of nonsense up with which I shall not put."

So, If I was you, I'd relax and just accept that all languages inexorably change.

It's a fun path to go down.

Do you wanna come with?
Ved   Saturday, January 15, 2005, 04:49 GMT
>>american nic Wednesday, January 12, 2005, 03:00 GMT
No, you can't say both, unless you want to be considered ignorant or uneducated. It is were instead of was because in the sentence, 'I' am becoming 'you', so it is conjugated into second person. I don't know why, it just is. <<

It's precisely this kind of insecurity and this paralyzing fear of sounding uneducated that makes people come up with such linguistic atrocities as "between you and I", thereby instantly marking themselves as low-class and just a tad ... well, trashy.
american nic   Saturday, January 15, 2005, 05:13 GMT
I'm sorry if I gave a wrong impression of what I was saying, but if someone's trying to learn English, then they should know the form of a phrase which will get them less looks from other people. I don't personally care if someone wants to say 'If me is you' but people do initially look at other people based on how they look and how they speak. It's humans.
Ved   Saturday, January 15, 2005, 05:26 GMT
As an ESL teacher in Canada, I tell my students that they will inevitably hear both forms being used and that they can use both, with the caveat that "if I were you" will probably make them sound more educated, but also more formal.

I also tell them not to worry about splitting their infinitives (a perfectly natural thing to do in English), but to avoid doing it in formal contexts, as there are prescriptivists lurking behind every tree, just waiting to self-righteoulsy pounce at them. (Split infinitive intended).

Nic, I am lashing out against prescriptivism here, not against you personally. Sorry if it sounded that way. I guess I should have included some kind of hedge in my last posting. I apologise.
Ved   Saturday, January 15, 2005, 05:27 GMT
A further apology for the typo. Somebody, give us an EDIT button.
Tiffany   Saturday, January 15, 2005, 06:39 GMT
My recommendation of saying only: "If I were you" has nothing to do with some hyper-correct idea in my head. It is the same as saying "I are ..." It just sounds... strange and incorrect. Wouldn't you correct them? It's not about establishing rules or not telling Nick how English "really" is because I am a "grammar nazi". It's just what I have been taught. No one I know says "If I was..." Therefore, why would we want to tell anybody to start doing so? He wants to learn English - so I tell him what I've been taught and observed all my life. You say "If I were" I can't give an explanation. That's just the way it is.
Jacob   Saturday, January 15, 2005, 15:21 GMT
>No one I know says "If I was..."

Get out much? j/k.

Seriously, in some places it's common, and for those folks, "If I was" is just what they have been taught. It's also the right thing to use when you're talking to them, if you don't want to sound out of place.
some guy   Saturday, January 15, 2005, 17:26 GMT
i don't really care to tell other people how to speak. i like simply to speak correctly and thereby lead by example...but i'm inclined at the moment to add my two cents. "cents" because i am an american. english rules in the UK might be different, so i'm speaking only for american standard english, because this is what i have learned. here goes:

first of all, "between you and I" is incorrect. "I" should be used only when the subject referred to is in the nominative. thus: "I walk my dog, but just between you and ME, I'D like to say that I don't pick up after my dog."

"me" is used before prepositions, because prepositions take either the dative, accusative, ablative, genitive, locative or what-have-you case. in other words, "I" is only for the nominative case.

second of all, "I were" is the correct phrase because it involves what is called a contrafactual construction. in other words, when i say to someone "If I were you, I'd pick up after my dog" I'm implying that I am not you, and that therefore it is contrafactual (against fact, or against reality) because obviously I am not you.

using "if i was..." is also correct, but only when the facts are not confirmed and there is uncertainty. for example, let's suppose that one of my friends claims to have seen me yesterday at a shopping mall in Japan, and then i say to my friend that i was not at a shopping mall in Japan. my friend continues to assert that he saw me at the shopping mall in Japan. i thereupon get angry and say something along the lines of..."well, if i was at a shopping mall in Japan yesterday, then how could i possibly have flown back in time to take my dog for a walk this morning?!"

so, when i use "if i was", i am referring to a set of facts whose truth is yet unconfirmed. in others words, when i use "if i were you", i am fully aware that i am, in fact, not you. but when i use "if i was at a shopping mall in Japan", i am entertaining my friend's proposition that i might have been at a shopping mall in Japan, although i am attempting to prove to him that i was not.

thus, "were" is a subjunctive form used in contrafactual constructions, whereas "was" is an indictive form used in situations involving propositions with unconfirmed facts.

i hope that my explanation is clear. if it isn't, then i really don't care because i myself know the difference and will continue to speak correctly and to lead by example.