correct usage of were and was?

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Is there a time when it is correct to use: If it was. . . I tend to always use: If it were
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Hi Anon,

I believe your question is somehow related to ‘subjunctive mood’ in English, and I would like to touch base on this topic. One of the functions of subjunctive mood is to express an idea or a statement that is contrary or hypothetical to real present. In such cases, the past form of ‘to be’ verb (is/am/was/were...etc) is always ‘were’, regardless of the subject, gender, and number.

(1) If I were a bird, I would fly around the world. (But, I am not a bird now)

(2) If it were a bird, it would fly around the world. (But, it is not a bird now)

(3) If he were here, he would invite you. (But, he is not here, now)

(4) If I were a political leader, I would always think about public welfare. (However, I am not a political leader, now)

In all above cases, regardless of the subject and its gender and number, the past form of ‘to be’ verb is always ‘were’.

Hope, this will give you some idea.
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Following up on rishonly's comments,

Use "If it were" for a hypothetical, contrary-to-fact situation in the present.
Use "If it was" for a real situation in the past.

(This is the same for "I", "he", and "she". "we", "you", and "they" are always "were", of course.)

If it were a fake, the chemical analysis would show it.
If it was a fake, it was a very good fake, because I couldn't tell the difference.

CJ
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Hello! Perhaps, this will help you:

conditional
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99% of the time you are correct. The only time you use if and was together is if the statement is not presumed to be untrue

for instance "If I were superman ""is correct. It is obvious I am not superman

But - "if he was away all day he wouldn't answer is phone is also correct because his being away all day is presumed to be true.
CalifJim,

Perhaps you can help me. What if you are teasing something that is in fact true with the proposal that it is so sought-after that it is assumed to not be true? For example: "Imagine if it (were/was) available now."

Let's use a unicorn as an example:

"Imagine if a unicorn (was/were) found today." In reality, a unicorn was found today, and I am simply presenting it as a grandiose "think about it!" context in order to build up to the reality, that a unicorn was truly found today.

Since the situation is not contrary to fact, but is set up to be hypothetical, which is the correct usage if usage of were is considered to be "hypothetical and contrary to the fact?"

An immediate response would be greatly appreciated if possible.

Thank you.
I don't find imagine if to be a very usual combination of words. It strikes me as ungrammatical. It's imagine that ..., so I don't think your questions about if really fit here. I would say Imagine that a unicorn was found today. And none of the rules about verb forms after if really apply.
Other combinations:
If a unicorn were found today, I would certainly be surprised. (The causality of the antecedent-consequent relationship exists here.)

If a unicorn was found today, it certainly escaped my notice. (Not a true antecedent-consequent relationship.)

were goes with would.
was goes with a simple past.
CJ
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If John McCain was elected... or If John McCain were elected...
Hi,
If John McCain was elected... or If John McCain were elected...

Since the election is now in the past, say neither. Instead, say
If John McCain had been elected...

Best wishes, Clive
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