+1

Which is grammatically correct and why:

  1. I wish I were there.
  2. I wish I was there.
+5

My opinion:

Each ESL student has their own purpose of learning English.

If your purpose is just to talk with native speakers, you can use "I wish I was". 

If you want to study something by reading books or other forms of formal documents written in English, it would be better you learn "I wish I were" is more appropriate.

Writers of such a document mostly have used and still are using "I wish I were" in their writing.


Question and Answer in an online site

[Q] Which is grammatically correct: "I wish I were you" or "I wish I was you"?
[A] Older, prescriptive grammar books insist on the use of the subjunctive form "were".

Most modern, descriptive grammar books accept both "were" and "was" as being grammatically acceptable, but they suggest that "I wish I were" is more appropriate in formal contexts.



paco

+1

Both are grammatically correct because in modern English, the only thing needed to express a counterfactual situation is a past tense verb.

If I was you = I'm not you, 

just as,

If I were you = I'm not you. 

It works the same way with 'wish'.

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+1

The older prescriptive grammars were simply wrong. Their analysis was wrong and the proof they offered was wrong. It was just one more rule that was wrong from the outset. The rule actually changed hundreds of years ago and yet these prescriptive grammars kept on mis analyzing this for centuries.

A student who isn't made aware of these differences really hasn't learned the language. A student who doesn't realize how and when to use different collocations really hasn't learned the language.

Language is much more than formal documents. Studies have shown that most students want to use English for the more casual things; watching a movie, listening to music, talking in English. There is far too much emphasis put on the formal aspects of language and this is actually very sad because this doesn't adequately prepare students for real life.

IMHO the collocations, "I wish I were/was" would be as rare as hen's teeth in formal documents. There is much of language that is reserved for formal and much that is reserved for casual. Relying on one form only can make your language sound very stilted.

My students often choose words inappropriate {too formal} for the register. This sounds just as bad as using casual language in a formal setting. They've learned numerous bad language habits precisely because of this terrible system known as grammar translation.

+1
The correct form is - I wish I were there.

You use this form to show an "unreal" situation, i.e. the thing you are wishing for is not the way things really are.

You may sometimes hear "was" used, since the subjunctive is relatively uncommon in English and people sometimes forget to use it, but "were" is definitely the correct verb.

+0
...Educated speakers know when to use 'was' and when to use 'were'.

I'm interested in this comment, because it implies that an 'educated person' (whatever that means) will sometimes say 'I wish I was', and sometimes 'I wish I were'.

For instance, if he were writing a private email, he might say 'I wish I was'; whereas if he were writing a dissertation, he would say 'I wish I were'.

(RH suggests that the phrase would be unusual in a formal document; but for the sake of this example, let's posit a chronically insecure dissertation-writer, who begins his opus with the comment: 'I wish I were more confident about the basis of the theory I am about to propose...')

I don't say it's impossible, or even improbable; not at all. But I'd be interested to know whether anyone would deliberately drop their register in this way; or whether it would (for most educated people) be an unconscious process.

What was your implication here, RH? Would you say that the double register is deliberately applied? Or a largely unconscious phenomenon?

MrP
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The older prescriptive grammars were simply wrong. Their analysis was wrong and the proof they offered was wrong.

You intrigue me, K.

Do you have any examples?

MrP
On second thoughts, K., I don't want to weigh down the thread with learned documentation. See:

Prescriptive Grammarians - Who Are They?

MrP
 chumpalumpa's reply was promoted to an answer.
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"You may sometimes hear "was" used, since the subjunctive is relatively uncommon in English ..."

Emotion: tongue tied

Googled: Results 1 - 10 of about 5,060,000 English pages for "if I were".

"... and people sometimes forget to use it, ... ."

Emotion: tongue tied

Googled: Results 1 - 10 of about 3,560,000 English pages for "if I was".
If you restrict your search domain to ".edu", the result would be like this:
"If I were you" 12,000
"If I was you" 689.
I think people come here to learn the variety of English spoken by educated people.

paco
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