The use of the "If" clause and "were".


Dear Sir/Madme


"If I were a doctor, I would have sent him to hospital."

"If I were you, I would buy the red dress."


I am having difficulty explaining to a French friend and English student, why we use the word "were" and not the word "was" in the above two sentences.  I know that they are in the Conditional tense, using the "If" clause but as to the reason  why we use "were" I cannot give a logical answer.


Please can you help me?


Thank you





asked Dec 19 '11 at 17:32 gtkuk New member

2 answers


Both your examples are hypothetical, or contrary to fact.  When we have unreal statements, the main clause (the result) is in the conditional (would), and the "if clause" is in the subjunctive (were).

I'm not sure how "logical" my answer is : )

link comment edited Dec 23 '11 at 20:17 Jody M. Expert

If I were you, I would buy the red dress. 

This sentence is correct.  But, this is an imaginary condition.  In imaginary condition, plural past tense verb is used.  That is why the word "were" is used.


I think that your first sentence is wrong. 

link comment answered Dec 23 '11 at 11:06 Z. A. Jazley Expert

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