We’ve all been there. Is it I was, or I were? Just by
the sound of it, one would think that I
was would always be correct. But, not so fast.
There are a couple of situations in which the obvious is not
to be trusted.
One instance that can be confusing is a sentence that begins
with the word There. In this case,one must identify the subject of the
sentence to which there refers and
determine if that word is singular or plural. In such a sentence, the subject
follows the verb. It may be necessary for you to mentally deconstruct the sentence,
reversing the order of the subject and the verb. This makes it relatively easy to
identify the subject and determine whether it is singular or plural. Then it is
a simple matter of choosing either a singular or a plural verb to match the
Singular: There was a man at the end of the street. (A man
was at the end of the street.)
Plural: There were three men at the end of the street.
(Three men were at the end of the street.)
Another confusing situation arises with the use of the
conjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood departs from reality. It may be a
supposition, a condition, a hypothetical, or an imaginary situation. Here is an
easy tip: The subjunctive mood always uses the past tense verb, were. If your
sentence is speaking of anything that is not reality, then the verb were is the correct choice, regardless
of whether the subject is singular or plural. Although not always the case, use
of the word if could be your clue
that you’re using the subjunctive mood. But not every sentence beginning with
the word if will be the subjunctive
= was and unreality = were.
If I were rich, I’d buy that car. (Unreality)
If I am correct about her age, she is too young to work
here. (There is a good chance that the supposition is true.)
Now, you no longer need to wonder if you’ve used this
irregular verb correctly! Easy-Peasy, right?