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[Infographic provided by Grammar.net]
Were or Was?
People often confuse the usage between 'I was' and 'I were'. When people say things like, "I wish it were impossible," some people would ask, were or was? Why not I wish it was impossible? Well, in English there is a special way of speaking wishfully. We say, I wish I were in love again, and not I wish I was in love again.
Grammarians call it the 'subjunctive mood'. It is when we are talking about things that are desirable, as opposed to things as they really are. It is to separate the 'what if' from the 'what is'. When we're in a wishful mood, was becomes were:
The word 'if' can make all the difference to the meaning of a statement like I was faster becomes quite different when we insert our little word: if I were faster.
Why is this? It is because "what if" means something that's untrue. When that happens, the subjunctive mood kicks in, and was becomes were. This happens when a sentence or a clause starts with if, and what's being talking about is contrary to fact:
The above is true only for those if statements that are contrary to fact. In cases where the statement may be true, was remains was:
The same rules apply to if statements that start with as if or as though:
Simple? Feel free to comment if you have any questions.
Reference: Woe is I, by Patricia T. O'Connor