I have a problem that I can't research because I cannot adequately define the problem. (That make sense?) I have difficulty choosing between "were" and "was" in certain contexts. For example, which would I choose for the following sentence:

"He jumped around as if he was/were a frog."

I have an inclination to use "were," and I'm almost certain that "were" is right, but I don't know that rule stating why. Can someone please point to the specifics of such a rule.

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You are correct; it should be 'were'. I can't really explain why though! (Teacher!?)
both are used although "were" is supposed to be the best. Personally, I wouldn't bother.
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Were is correct, though I hear both all the time in everyday talk. The rule for it is that it is the subjunctive form of the verb, which is rare in English, but common in some other languages (like Spanish). The page below can probably explain its usage better than I can:


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Thanks everyone for the tips! The website was great and explained it immediately. I knew it was someting simple, I just couldn't put my finger on it. (All these verb forms/tenses/moods -- ugh!)
Hi all! I'm new here. I raised the same question to a friend and here is the explanation:

Blame it on the Subjunctive for the use of 'were' instead of 'was' in conditional clauses when referring to a situation that does not exist or that is unlikely, hence 'were' is formally used in sentences with 'if', 'as if', 'as though'. The Subjunctive is an old form of language that has stubbornly survived.

Collins Cobuild's Book of English Usage suggests that both 'were' and 'was' can be used, though 'was' is used more often in spoken English while 'were' in written English.


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Hi Wohnivek,
Welcome to the Forum.
Thanks for your input, every bit of help is appreciated.
It is "were." If it is a wish or a desire, or not a fact, then you use "were." That is the simpliest way to remember the rule, I believe.
In spoken english, people don't stick to the rule so strictly.
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