I Was There . . .: When
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What happened to my stuff? It was there when I used this Workspace yesterday?
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Dec 01, PM. Bruno books view quotes. Some are even unaware that the distinction exists. That last example above is real in form but it is still unreal in sense because of the would. There is one relatively uncommon place where you pretty much do have to use were not was in a conditional, and that is when you use inversion to forgo the word if altogether:. Were [unreal] there any other way, we would have [unreal] found it. If there were [unreal] any other way, we would have [unreal] found it. If there had been [unreal] any other way, we would have [unreal] found it.
Had there been [unreal] any other way, we would have [unreal] found it. Other verbs in the past tense work the same, with the inversion signalling the conditional:.
I was there when . . . John McEnroe played his last semi
Had [unreal] they but asked, we would have [unreal] gladly told them. Consider how stiffly formal this Steven Brust quote mentioned in this answer sounds:. To be more precise, and state the matter in its simplest form, we believe that were [unreal] any of the events in the previous volume of such a nature that they could be omitted without severe damage to the narrative, we should have omitted [unreal] them to begin with.
Be ye [unreal] man or mouse, still shall ye say nothing! If ye be [unreal] man or mouse, still shall ye say nothing! Nobody talks that way anymore, and nobody writes that way anymore, either, not unless they intend to represent the speech of centuries long past. No matter whether you are a man or a mouse, you still will say nothing!
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It will make you sound smarter and it is technically correct since "the subjunctive mood is used to express a wish or possible situation that is currently not true. It's if I were for hypothetical in the present or future and if I was when talking about something presumed true in the PAST. While I may not have enough knowledge on Old and Middle English, I can show you the conjugation for to do for the 2nd person singular form of "thou" in Early Modern English:.
It's why it should be "if I be" for things possible and one could still say it. We see "if truth be told" and "whether it be" and others, all residual subjunctives from the days of Chaucer and even Shakespeare wherein it was already disappearing. In Modern English, the past tense is uniform for every person I, you, he, we, you, they did except for "to be" I, he was, but you, we, you, they were , but it wasn't always that way.
Anyway, if I were you, I would learn it because it usually separates the intelligent from ignoramuses. It's correct English even if it be a little old. That aside, I think one of the other answers is right that in British English — at least spoken — both are acceptable and probably equally common.