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Subjunctive Mood I: If I Were…

Did you know that verbs have moods? The subjunctive mood allows you to be wishful, or to talk about something that isn’t true. In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye was not a rich man, but he sang about how he would spend his money if he were actually rich.


  • If he was going to steal that TV from you, he did a lousy job of it.
  • If our professor was to assign grammar homework, we would all protest.


A sentence of this type can be wide open in time, and it can address unreal possibilities. Regardless of who is speculating, use were : “If he were going to steal that TV,” or “If your professor were to assign homework.”


When you use this construction — if ———- were — you open up the likelihood that something (good or bad) would have happened, might be happening, or will be happening. If he were here yesterday, he would have seen that error coming.

If you were here right now, you could stop that error. If you were here tomorrow, you might stop that error. If you weren’t here, too bad.

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