Forums · General English Grammar & Vocabulary, Listening & Speaking · General English Grammar Questions
Anonymous:I know that you are supposed to use 'were' instead of 'was' in a conditional sentence, but am not sure if this is required when the condition does not begin the sentence.
Would this be correct: I wouldn't have done it had I known he were ill.
He WAS ill -- that was not the part that is contracty to fact.
Compare to: If he were ill, he would have let us know.
I think you should use "was", but for another reason, not because it's not hypothetical.
After all, you can say "If I knew where he lived, I would go right over there and set his house on fire", even though the fact that he lives somewhere is not hypothetical.
So my opinion is that you don't use "were" forms of subjunctive in subordinate clauses.
An interesting thing, thinking about what GG said, is that I thinkcontrary to fact situations are actually taken into account in thewould-part of a conditional statement (not in the if-part, as shown inthe example above):
His girlfriend can always tell if he's lying. If his girlfriend was/were here right now, she would definitely realize he's lying. (but NOT: ...realize he was/were lying)
Anyway, I'm not a native speaker so I might be wrong.
<< I wouldn't have done it had I known (that).>>
The original sentence was a type 3 conditional, but your examples were type 2. I look at the original sentence this way:
FACT: He was ill when I did it.
FACT: I didn't know that.
COUNTER-FACTUAL CONDITION: If I had known (that fact)
RESULT (if the counter-factual condition had been true): I wouldn't have done it.
The fact that he was ill at the time remains a fact. It is the knowledge of the illness that is contrary to past fact. Thus:
If I had known he was ill, I wouldn't have done it.
Let's turn your last sentence into a type 3 conditional:
- If his girlfriend had been there at the time, she would have realized he was lying.
FACT 1: He was lying.
FACT 2: His girlfriend wasn't there when he was lying.
FACT 3: Because she wasn't there, she didn't realize (fact 1).
COUNTER-FACTUAL CONDITION: If his girlfriend had been there at the time
RESULT (if the counter-factual condition had been true): she would have realized (that fact)
YankeeThe fact that he was ill at the time remains a fact. It is the knowledge of the illness that is contrary to past fact. Thus:Hi Amy,
yes, but in "If I knew where she lived, I would go there and..." there's a fact too, but the tense is backshifted. In your sentence a backshift would sound odd and would probably change the meaning... What I wanted to say is that I don't think the reason why we choose that verb is because it's not counterfactual. Otherwise why "lived" is possible, since it's no counterfactual either?
Hmm, but maybe the fact that it's not counterfactual is a good reason not to use "were" instead, as GG said. And that's what the original posted asked. So if I agree, what am I arguing about? LOL, I think I wanted to find an explanation that probably doesn't make sense. So let's forget it. Sorry.
You only use "were" in 2nd conditional imaginery or hypothetical situations.
If I were you, I'd look for another job.
Also I notice in Australia, that the use of "were" is mainly for advice, such as in the sentence I just showed you.
So your sentence should read:-
I wouldn't have done it if I'd known he was ill.
Anonymousnot sure if this is required when the condition does not begin the sentence.The position of the condition within the sentence is irrelevant to the was/were issue.
If I were not sure, I would not tell you this.
I would not tell you this if I were not sure.
The problem is that the was > were change only applies to the main verb of the condition clause. Any other instance of the past tense of to be in the condition clause agrees with its subject in the normal way.
Had I known he was ill, I wouldn't have done it.
I wouldn't have done it had I known he was ill.
Anonymous:I think the use of 'was' instead of 'were' in "Had I known he was ill, I wouldn't have done it." is caused by "he was ill' is noun clause and becomes the object of known.
Am I correct?
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