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I wish I was rich OR I wish I were rich???

English translation: I wish I were rich.

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23:50 Nov 12, 2008
English to English translations [PRO]
General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters / GRAMMAR
English term or phrase: I wish I was rich OR I wish I were rich???
The grammar books say I WISH I WERE RICH, I WISH SHE WERE MY FRIEND, I WISH YOU WERE HERE. But I hear people saying I WISH I WAS all the time... I am so confused! Can you help me???
Veronikka
English translation:I wish I were rich.
Explanation:
The subjunctive form of the verb "to be" (i.e., "were") must be used here.

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Note added at 5 mins (2008-11-12 23:55:38 GMT)
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Note:

In informal speech, "was" is frequently used in such instances, but this really constitutes substandard speech.
Selected response from:

Robert Forstag
Local time: 00:06
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
5 +32I wish I were rich.Robert Forstag
5 +10I wish I was rich, I wish I were rich
Denise Marques Leitao
5 +1It depends!!xxxFWLS
Summary of reference entries provided
Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Grammar
Carlos Quandt
Homenagem...felidaevampire

Discussion entries: 9





  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +32
i wish i was rich or i wish i were rich???
I wish I were rich.


Explanation:
The subjunctive form of the verb "to be" (i.e., "were") must be used here.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 5 mins (2008-11-12 23:55:38 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Note:

In informal speech, "was" is frequently used in such instances, but this really constitutes substandard speech.

Robert Forstag
Local time: 00:06
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 28
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Konstantin Kisin
0 min

agree  Marlene Curtis
0 min

agree  Sabine Akabayov, PhD
2 mins

agree  valhalla55
4 mins

agree  Fernando Domeniconi
4 mins

agree  Jack Doughty
5 mins

agree  mmasur
12 mins

agree  Ruth Martinez
15 mins

agree  Cagdas Karatas
18 mins

agree  Patricia Rosas
21 mins

agree  rhandler
25 mins

agree  NancyLynn
29 mins

agree  Egil Presttun
34 mins

disagree  Robin Levey: In many contexts - in reported speech, for example, 'I wish I was...' would be perfectly correct. // Thank you, Robert, for having given the matter further thought. Your example, above, is precisely the kind of context I had in mind.
40 mins
  -> I think you make a good point regarding *reported speech*: see my comment above.

agree  Erin DeBell
48 mins

agree  Will Matter: I agree with your answer and the comment about substandard usage. We also need to recognize that substandard usage (and the popularity thereof) does not, (in any way, shape or form) change the fact that it's WRONG. Popularity does not equal correctness.
52 mins
  -> I could not agree more. Well said.

agree  Cristina Santos
58 mins

disagree  R-i-c-h-a-r-d: Forgive me for being a reprobate, but we simply don't say "I wish I WERE famous", or "I wish I WERE a millionaire", no matter how grammatically correct it is. Sorry. // Are you asking me if I'm religious because I disagree?
1 hr
  -> *I* forgive you. But can you be at peace with yourself?

agree  Pham Huu Phuoc
1 hr

agree  orientalhorizon: Sometimes "correct" are grammarians, but "common" are ordinary people.
1 hr

agree  Phong Le
1 hr

agree  Katarina Peters: Agree with Will Matter!
1 hr

agree  Michael Barnett: I agree with Will. Listen to Loudon Wainwright's insight into this issue:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGIstFnrgCk
1 hr

agree  Jamili Jarouche
2 hrs

agree  Lalit Sati: Yes, The subjunctive form of the verb "to be"
3 hrs

agree  Demi Ebrite
4 hrs

agree  Claire Chapman
4 hrs

agree  chaman4723
4 hrs

agree  Catherine Bolton
6 hrs

agree  Patricia Townshend
7 hrs

agree  LittleBalu
7 hrs

agree  Lumen
8 hrs

agree  Suzan Hamer
9 hrs

agree  Francesca Siotto
10 hrs

disagree  airmailrpl: I agree with mediamatrix and Richard Jenkins language evolves by popular usage
10 hrs
  -> It does, but "I wish I was rich" has not gained *enough* acceptance to be considered *correct* English. This is the point. Surely you can think of similar examples in Portuguese of usage that, though widely observed, would still be considered substandard.

neutral  Carlos Quandt: The "incorrect, substandard" form wins 8:1 on Google. Is it a sign of accepted usage, or it´s just that too many people are uneducated and say things like "I wish I was rich"?... Relax, the times they are a-changin', but I ain't gonna say you'se wrong :)
14 hrs
  -> I appreciate your generous forbearance in refraining from posting a "disagree". In this case, I really think that the number of Google hits is not a good touchstone.

agree  Maria José Tavares
14 hrs

agree  Caroline Moreno
23 hrs

agree  Kristin Privette
4 days
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15 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +10
i wish i was rich or i wish i were rich???
I wish I was rich, I wish I were rich


Explanation:
http://englishplus.com/grammar/00000031.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjunctive

http://www.eslbase.com/grammar/wish

http://www.englishgrammarsecrets.com/wish/menu.php

Ambos são usados, I wish I were é a forma do subjuntivo. I wish I was é mais informal.

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Note added at 58 mins (2008-11-13 00:48:38 GMT)
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I posted the answer in Portuguese, because it was in English to Portuguese, but basically both forms are cokmmonly used, and some grammar books do recgonize "I wish I was" as correct, as in the last two links I posted.

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Note added at 1 hr (2008-11-13 01:00:16 GMT)
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Well, I've been an English teacher for a long time, and you have to make a difference between expressions that are not used in English and expressions that are used but don't fit formal grammar rules. It makes a huge difference for a non native speaker to know the difference between them.

I don't believe an expression that is widely used is wrong, you just have to know when to use it and when not to use it. You ain't gonna talk like that in a job interview, got it? (was this sentence wrong? I bet you all understood it) But that is a way the language is used, and, therefore it isn't wrong...

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Note added at 16 hrs (2008-11-13 16:05:17 GMT)
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http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080915183928AA...

Now, that gives you an idea of how the average English speaker thinks. Out of 6 votes, 5 said "I wish he was" would be the correct answer. The only one who said "I wish he were" was the correct answer also pointed out that it is the subjunctive form. Most native English speakers have no idea what subjunctive means. So basically they say "I wish he was" because "he" is singular, and that's it. That's how most people speak.

Denise Marques Leitao
Canada
Local time: 00:06
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Robert Forstag: Although commonly used, "I wish I was" is incorrect, and therefore falls into the same category as the use of "ain't", "irregardless", and "snuck" (all of which are commonly used, and therefore, in some sense, "accepted", and yet substandard).
17 mins
  -> It is substandard indeed, but not wrong... In some of the grammar links I posted they say I wish I was can be used

agree  Robin Levey: Exactly. And there's nothing 'substandard' about the way millions of English-speakers, worldwide, use their native or adopted language.
31 mins
  -> I see your point, you can't say most English speakers speak a substandar English...

neutral  Will Matter: 'Substandard' and 'incorrect' can, quite rightfully, be considered as synonymous. // They also say 'Where you is?' & 'I axed (asked) him' & 'I don't know nuthin' and ALL of them are incorrect. Usage does not bestow correctness, there are RULES.
46 mins
  -> They are not synonymous. But that's a point o view. The thing is, English speakers do say If I was, period.

neutral  R-i-c-h-a-r-d: Is it WERE or WAS ?
1 hr
  -> Both are used

agree  airmailrpl: - both
10 hrs

agree  Carlos Quandt: the second form could be categorized as "informal" or even "nonstandard". Yet, it's widely used, even by educated people.
11 hrs
  -> It is true, and the reference you posted about descriptive and prescriptive grammar is really interesting.

agree  Liam Hamilton: English evolves all teh time - either is now acceptable
13 hrs

agree  jccantrell: With Liam here. Grammar specifies subjunctive, but in conversation, virtually everyone here in the USA uses 'was.'
15 hrs

agree  Flavia Martins dos Santos
15 hrs

agree  felidaevampire: According to my English Grammar In Use (which is pretty old, therefore not "infected" with nowadays usage), both forms are correct, in any sentence(s). :)
17 hrs
  -> I love that book, it is like a grammar Bible for me, but I don't have a copy with me now to post its explanation. But if it says both forms are correct, indeed they are, it is a very respected book...

agree  Leny Vargas
19 hrs

agree  Polangmar
1 day22 hrs

agree  Egil Presttun: According to descriptive grammar you're right.
2 days22 hrs
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
i wish i was rich or i wish i were rich???
It depends!!


Explanation:
Without a context no one can say for certain which is appropriate. Grammarians and childrens' textbooks often use these (actual) examples:

If I were you, I'd be careful (I can't be you).

If I was king, you would be my queen (unlikely but not impossible).

The obvious problem here is that it depends on many factors what a speaker considers to be likely, unlikely or impossible.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2 days4 hrs (2008-11-15 03:57:13 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

To be more explicit on the grammar:

Expressions of will require a subjunctive. They do not state a real fact, but impose a condition. Conditions are categorized on a spectrum from real, such as scientific conditions, to unreal or impossible, as in desire or volition.

So, in the original post, using "I wish I were rich" vs. "I wish I was rich" may also depend on the main clause of the sentence (which was not provided by the asker in our discussion), in either case, to determine whether any subjunctive meaning can be inferred from the context.

In the end, although it is sufficient to say 'was' is less formal (but just as correct) as 'were', it's not the whole story.

In other words, it all depends.

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Note added at 2 days4 hrs (2008-11-15 04:19:09 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

btw:

My first example above has the subjunctive meaning, thus the 'were', the second, the indicative.

In the 1st, we're not in 'The Matrix', I cannot be you; but, were we downtown, I apparently could because that's just how people speak and grammarians (c.f. the Oxford English Grammar) agree.

In my second example above, there's a more indicative meaning, thus the 'was'. Keep in mind, it could be Prince Harry speaking (perhaps to a girl at a pub?). In any case, it's a possible condition.

xxxFWLS
Portugal
Local time: 04:06
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in PortuguesePortuguese

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  airmailrpl: -
9 hrs
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Reference comments


11 hrs peer agreement (net): +1
Reference: Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Grammar

Reference information:
1. Descriptive grammar: the systematic study and description of a language. Descriptive grammar refers to the structure of a language as it is actually used by speakers and writers.

2. Prescriptive grammar: a set of rules and examples dealing with the syntax and word structures of a language, usually intended as an aid to the learning of that language. Prescriptive grammar refers to the structure of a language as certain people think it should be used.

Both kinds of grammar are concerned with rules--but in different ways. Specialists in descriptive grammar (called linguists) study the rules or patterns that underlie our use of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. On the other hand, prescriptive grammarians (such as most editors and teachers) lay out rules about what they believe to be the “correct” or “incorrect” use of language.

Descriptive grammarians ask the question, “What is English (or another language) like--what are its forms and how do they function in various situations?” By contrast, prescriptive grammarians ask “What should English be like--what forms should people use and what functions should they serve?” (...) Modern grammarians aim to describe rather than prescribe linguistic forms and their uses. Dictionary makers also strive for descriptive accuracy in reporting which words are in use and which senses they carry.

"Prescriptive grammar may tell its users that some expressions are incorrect, contrary to actual contemporary usage by the vast majority of users and writers in the vast majority of cases"
(Synchronic English Linguistics, Paul Georg Meyer)

Examples:
"It is I" or "It's me"?
"I wish I were" or "I wish I was"?
"drive slow" or "drive slowly"?
"the man whom I saw"? or "the man who I saw"?
"the man to whom I spoke" or "the man I spoke to"?
"to go boldly" or "to boldly go"? (split infinitive)?
"I wouldn't think" or "I would think not"?
"between you and me" or "between you and I"?


    Reference: http://grammar.about.com/od/basicsentencegrammar/f/descpresg...
    Reference: http://www.pbs.org/speak/speech/correct/prescriptivism/
Carlos Quandt
Brazil
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese

Peer comments on this reference comment (and responses from the reference poster)
agree  Lubain Masum: Good reference. Useful for non-natives like me.
1 day16 hrs
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23 hrs
Reference: Homenagem...

Reference information:
Em homenagem à Denise, aqui vai trecho do meu English Grammar In Use:
[UNIT 37 - "If" and "wish" sentences (present)]
c) In "if" sentences and after "wish" you can use "were" instead of "was":
- If I were you, I wouldn't buy that coat. (or 'If I was')
- I'd go out if it weren't raining. (or 'if it wasn't raining')
- I wish my room were larger. (or 'I wish my room was larger.')
É claro que só se pode usar "was" ao invés de "were" quando o sujeito está no singular; caso esteja no plural, precisa-se usar "were".
Vale comentar que minhas professoras da Cultura Inglesa não eram fãs do uso de "was" com "if" e "wish". Elas torciam o nariz quando ouviam estas combinações. O uso de "were" é mais formal/tradicional, mais agradável aos ouvidos (se não dos Ingleses, pelo menos aos meus, mas isso pode ser influência das minhas "teachers").
Tentando ajudar... :)

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Note added at 1 day23 hrs (2008-11-14 22:57:09 GMT)
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[Sorry, LittleBalu (and everyone else).]
OK. English version...
I have posted above a small extract from my English Grammar In Use (it is in English, so there's no need to write everything again). Here's what follows:
Of course we can only write "was" instead of "were" when the subject is singular; if it's plural (we, they...), we must write "were".
It's worth the comment on my teachers from Cultura Inglesa. They were not fond of using "was" in "if" and "wish" sentences. They'd literally twist their noses when they heard such combinations. Using "were" is more traditional/formal, more pleasant to the ears (if not to English ears, at least to mine, but this may be the influence of my teachers).
Trying to help... :)

felidaevampire
United Kingdom
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese

Peer comments on this reference comment (and responses from the reference poster)
neutral  LittleBalu: This is an English monolingual question. Please post your comments in English so that we all know/understand what you are saying. Thank you.
9 hrs
  -> You are absolutely right. I do apologize. I hadn't noticed and I had Denise in mind while writing my comment (she does speak Portuguese). Sorry! (missed a "t" in "Portuguese"...):)
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Voters for reclassification
as
PRO / non-PRO
PRO (1): Will Matter
Non-PRO (2): Multitran, Egil Presttun


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Changes made by editors
Nov 13, 2008 - Changes made by Robert Forstag:
LevelNon-PRO » PRO
Nov 13, 2008 - Changes made by Alison Schwitzgebel:
LevelPRO » Non-PRO
Nov 12, 2008 - Changes made by Robert Forstag:
Language pairPortuguese to English » English


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