Grammar Girl: Is it ok to Switch Verb Tenses?

For the record, I would like to say  Grammar Girl has the most annoying sounding voice EVER…but that is besides the point.

This podcast was centered on understanding the difference between the two verbs were and was. I know I often mix up the two because both “sound right” in certain situations. I found the advice and tips on this website to be extremely helpful.

Which sentence is correct:

“I wish I were more perceptive.” or “I wish I was more perceptive.”

According to Grammar Girl website “I were” is called the subjunctive mood, and you use it for times when you are talking about something that is not true or you are being wishful. This is a very helpful point. Until listening to this podcast I never knew that “I were” should only be used under those conditions. So I would say “I wish he were more reliable” instead of “I wish he was more reliable.”

Now that we have clarified when to use “were”, the question existing is when to use the verb “was”? The website states when you are supposing about something that might be true, you use the verb “was.”

For Example: There was a reason we broke up. If he was a gentlemen, then we could have stayed  together.

However, it is very important to pay attention to the context when deciding which verb to use as well.  The example I gave above could easily change if the guy I was referring to had some brain disease that made it humanly impossible for him to be a gentlemen (which I think most guys actually have)

The new sentence would then be: There was a reason we broke up. If he were a gentlemen, then we could have stayed together.

I wish I had been introduced to the grammar girl website during my ENGL 1101 days!


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