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i can't seem to find a hard-and-fast rule for a situation like this:

"I wish I could say (that) I was happy" (if the speaker is attempting to express that he/she IS NOT HAPPY RIGHT NOW)

would it be incorrect to express this as:

"I wish I could say I'm happy".... one hears this sort of thing all the time

i wonder if this is an instance-like in indirect speech-where the rule is flexible...that is, it has become acceptable to say "he told me HE'S happy" as well as the backshifted "he told me he WAS happy"...in the examples above, can we backshift the verb to "WAS" because "could" is a past tense auxiliary?

i don't think, by the way, that this has to do with the subjunctive...as Fowler says, there is no sequence of moods requirement in english...(i.e., "if i were to say i was happy..." is correct)...so in this case there would be no need for subjunctive after "i could say"...

then again, we say "you could say I'm a happy person"...

i wonder if anyone has any insight ...
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If my wish concerns the present time:

I wish I could say I was happy. Yes

I wish I could say I am happy. No.

We had an argument in this forum over this recently.
thanks for the reply

do you mind giving a reason?

is it an irrealis situation? do we only use that past tense when we are talking about something unreal?

for example, can one say

"i wish i could say he's important to me" if the speaker wants to express that he/she would like others to know that "he" actually is important

'i wish i could say he was important to me" seems to imply that "he" is not...

also, one says "you could say I'm happy"

thanks
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Eh, Rothkowitz, this has sometjhing to do with what I just asked! (see the thread "If I knew what you knew")

It seems both "I wish I could say I was happy" and "I wish I could say I'm happy" can be used with the same meaning. Anyway, I think that the sentence with "was" sounds better, maybe because of a kind of tense agreement.

You also wrote "You could say I'm a happy person"... which is similar to "I'd say this sentence is not correct."

"I'd say this sentence is not correct" sounds good without "was" because it is not part of a conditional structure, it's just a way to express your opinion. But if you put it in a conditional environment, you'll get: "If you didn't put a singular verb in that sentence, I'd say that sentence was not correct."

I'll probably be completely wrong Rothkowitz, but since you are asking the same thing I'm asking in another thread, I decided to tell you my opinion. Emotion: wink
...also....which of these are acceptable formulations?

"i wish i could tell you what this is" (this present unidentifiable object)

"i wish i could tell you what this was" (the same object)

"i wish i could tell you how i feel" (right now)

"i wish i could tell you how i felt" (right now)

thanks all
Also, I would say

"I wish I could say he was important to me." (But he's not important to me, he did nothing for me, that bastard)

"I wish I could tell him he's important to me." (He's important to me, but I can't tell him that)

As you see, these subjunctives are difficult to understand and master... In fact, it seems there are no rules. Take this for example: "If I knew where she lived, I would go and visit her." Here "lived" doesn't mean that she doesn't really live anywhere, she actually lives somewhere and you want to know where. Strange, isn't it?
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well not really

you see this is not a case of subjunctive....as i said in my first postr

(cite fowler here)...there is no sequence of moods in english...

therefore, for example, we do not say "if i were to say i were happy"

we say, instead, "if i were to say i was happy..."

you see...therefore after the "could say" in these sentences there seems to be no further need for subjunctive...so my question is:

are we backshifting the verb here because "could" is a past tense auxiliary...

is it therefore the case that both

"i wish i could tell you what this was"

"i wish i could tell you what this is".........are acceptable

do you see...my question is still unanswered

i know how to use the subjunctive
You are right, those are not really subjunctives but... they are kinds of subjunctives! If those "was" are not past tenses, what else could they be? The meaning is like the one of the subjunctive tense.
Rothkowitzdo you see...my question is still unanswered

Sorry, but the question in my thread is unanswered too! Emotion: wink So let's wait for somebody else.
to clarify this even further...so as to hopefully get an answer

we say "i wish i knew what you WERE thinking right now"..."were", backshifting because of "knew"

but i am asking in these examples if "could say"...functions a past tense...if it does...do we have the same type of situation

(see above)
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