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I wish I WAS or I wish I WERE?

English translation: was (informal) were (formal)

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:I wish I WAS or I wish I WERE?
English translation:was (informal) were (formal)
Entered by: María Teresa Taylor Oliver
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18:52 Dec 23, 2003
English to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary - Linguistics
English term or phrase: I wish I WAS or I wish I WERE?
I've never understood the difference between the two...

"Sometimes, I wish I WAS a little girl..."?

or

"Sometimes, I wish I WERE a little girl..."?

Thanks!!

~MT~
María Teresa Taylor Oliver
Panama
Local time: 16:18
was (informal) were (formal)
Explanation:
Michael Swan, in Practical English Usage, says: Subjunctive - be - Be has special subjunctive forms: I be, you be, etc.
It important that Helen be present when we sign the papers.
The forms I were and he/she/it were, used for example after 'if' and 'wish' in a formal style, are also a kind of subjunctive.
If I were you I should stop smoking. I wish it were Saturday.
Selected response from:

Kim Metzger
Mexico
Local time: 15:18
Grading comment
Thank you.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
5 +14I wish I were a little girl
Marian Greenfield
4 +11was (informal) were (formal)
Kim Metzger
4 +9I wish I WERE
Сергей Лузан
5 +8I were
Alaa Zeineldine
4 +6Both versions are used; traditional grammarians will prefer "I were"ntext
5 +3Just remember the songxxxBourth
3 +3not to be graded
verbis
4 +2wereSergio Santoro


  

Answers


6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +9
I wish I WERE


Explanation:
Re.: Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English by A. S. Hornby ISBN 0 19 431101 5. etc For British English at least. Good luck, Maria Teresa Taylor Oliver!

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-12-23 19:05:10 (GMT)
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In if-sentences both \'were\' & \'was\' can be used \"If I were/(was) you, I wouldn\'t buy that coat\"
Re.: English Grammar in Use, Raymond Murphy.

Сергей Лузан
Russian Federation
Local time: 00:18
Native speaker of: Native in RussianRussian
PRO pts in category: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Dolores Vázquez
3 mins
  -> Thank you & gracias, Dolores Vázquez!

agree  Vladimir Lioukaikine
3 mins
  -> Thank you & merci, Vladimir Lioukaikine!

agree  verbis
45 mins
  ->  Thank you, grazie & gracias, verbis! Merry Xmas by the way!

disagree  Refugio: You can't say "if I was you"
1 hr
  -> I never tried, Ruth Henderson, but it's in English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy

agree  A.Đapo
2 hrs
  ->  Thank you, Amra Ðapo (damra)!

agree  Pamela Peralta
6 hrs
  -> Thank you & gracias, Pamela Peralta! Merry X mas!

agree  Rusinterp
6 hrs
  -> Thank you, Alexandra Tussing! Merry X mas!

agree  Nikki Scott-Despaigne: This is correct. It is the English subjunctive.
9 hrs
  -> Even so. Thank you & merci, Nikki Scott-Despaigne! Merry Xmas!

agree  NancyLynn
17 hrs
  -> Thank you, NancyLynn! Merry Xmas!

agree  Gordon Darroch: I'm all for moving with the times, but the English subjunctive is a fragile, precious and beautiful thing which should be preserved at all costs
21 hrs
  -> Thank you for your deep-felt & acute comment, Gordon Darroch! Merry Xmas!

agree  chopra_2002
1 day 20 hrs
  -> Thank you, langclinic! Merry Xmas!
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8 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +14
i wish i was or i wish i were?
I wish I were a little girl


Explanation:
I wish I WAS a little girl

is common in spoken English, but incorrect.

msg

Marian Greenfield
Local time: 16:18
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 39

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Kim Metzger: I wish I 'was' a little girl might be just right in a given text. If formality is important, 'were' is necessary.
13 mins

agree  Refugio: Was is colloquial usage, but not grammatically correct. It may be in the process of change, like "It's me."
1 hr

agree  Valeria Verona
2 hrs

agree  A.Đapo
2 hrs

agree  xxxsarahl: I says, what if you was a little girl? ;-)
3 hrs
  -> vbg

agree  verbis: yes, I wish I was is incorrect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
3 hrs

agree  Amy Williams
4 hrs

agree  Pamela Peralta
6 hrs

agree  Rusinterp
7 hrs

agree  NancyLynn
17 hrs

agree  David Moore: Absolutely - see Apricitas' comment above
18 hrs

agree  Gordon Darroch: Kim sums up the usage very well, but "I were" is the correct form
21 hrs

agree  Federica Masante
1 day 18 hrs

agree  Patricia Fierro, M. Sc.
1 day 20 hrs
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12 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +11
i wish i was or i wish i were?
was (informal) were (formal)


Explanation:
Michael Swan, in Practical English Usage, says: Subjunctive - be - Be has special subjunctive forms: I be, you be, etc.
It important that Helen be present when we sign the papers.
The forms I were and he/she/it were, used for example after 'if' and 'wish' in a formal style, are also a kind of subjunctive.
If I were you I should stop smoking. I wish it were Saturday.


Kim Metzger
Mexico
Local time: 15:18
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 187
Grading comment
Thank you.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Peter Linton: That sums it up.
34 mins

agree  Lydia Molea
1 hr

agree  Patricia Baldwin: very realistic!
2 hrs

agree  Valeria Verona
2 hrs

agree  A.Đapo
2 hrs

agree  Gayle Wallimann
3 hrs

agree  Nado2002
3 hrs

agree  Steven Capsuto
9 hrs

agree  Marie Scarano: This rule has changed since I started teaching EFL many years ago. Few texts bother making this distinction for foreign students anymore. They have standardized the past tense of "to be" as the subjunctive.I guess this is how languages evolve.
12 hrs

agree  vixen
13 hrs

disagree  David Moore: Sorry, Kim; "was" in THIS case is quite clearly WRONG
16 hrs
  -> Not according to the Englishman Raymond Murphy in "English Grammar in Use." "Was" is acceptable in informal use. "Were" is used in so-called "edited English."

agree  NancyLynn
17 hrs

neutral  Gordon Darroch: it's not so much a question of formality as education. If you don't mind sounding thick, go ahead and say "I wish I was...":)
21 hrs

agree  chopra_2002
1 day 20 hrs
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13 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +6
i wish i was or i wish i were?
Both versions are used; traditional grammarians will prefer "I were"


Explanation:
subjunctive after wish. Yet another traditional rule requires you to use were rather than was in a contrary-to-fact statement that follows the verb wish: I wish I were (not was) lighter on my feet. Many writers continue to insist on this rule, but the indicative was in such clauses can be found in the works of many well-known writers.


    Reference: http://www.bartleby.com/64/C001/061.html
    Reference: http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/errors/were.html
ntext
United States
Local time: 15:18
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in category: 20

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  David Knowles: Best description - the subjunctive is getting rarer in English. The Bartleby description is excellent.
5 mins

agree  Cilian O'Tuama: if I were a rich man, daidle deedle daidle ...
34 mins

agree  Peter Linton: Interestingly, people who use "was" in spoken English sometimes use "were" -- "...as it were", or "Were you to make that wish,it woul end in tears".
41 mins

neutral  verbis: there are a lt of 2used" versions which are incorrect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
43 mins

agree  Amy Williams
4 hrs

agree  Gordon Darroch
21 hrs

agree  chopra_2002
1 day 20 hrs
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11 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +8
i wish i was or i wish i were?
I were


Explanation:
Were in place of was for things that are improbable. It is correct grammar as far as I know.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 19 mins (2003-12-23 19:11:50 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Here is a reference from the Ameican Heritage Book of English Usage:

http://www.bartleby.com/64/pages/page38.html

subjunctive after wish

Yet another traditional rule requires you to use were rather than was in a contrary-to-fact statement that follows the verb wish: I wish I were (not was) lighter on my feet. Many writers continue to insist on this rule, but the indicative was in such clauses can be found in the works of many well-known writers.


Alaa Zeineldine
Egypt
Local time: 23:18
Native speaker of: Native in ArabicArabic, Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 11

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  verbis
40 mins

agree  Fuad Yahya
1 hr

agree  Nado2002
3 hrs

agree  Rusinterp
7 hrs

agree  Nikki Scott-Despaigne: Thank you - this is what I said in my coment to the second suggestion. This is a classic use of the subjunctive and is found in many lanuages with strong Latin influences...
9 hrs

agree  vixen
13 hrs

agree  David Moore: I was taught it should follow, or be followed by, "impossibility", and ALWAYS be used in those circumstances. No matter how often the "was" form may be used, it is technically WRONG.
16 hrs

agree  NancyLynn: with David
17 hrs
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26 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
were


Explanation:
"I wish" calls for a subjunctive tense, however, during the evolution of the English language from its germanic roots, the past tense and the subjunctive one ended up merging together (compare german past "war" and subj. "wäre" which both became were, although it didn't exactly happen like that) so now the English-speakers just use the past tense. The only exception is the verb to be which has "was" in the past for the first and third person, singular, and "were" for the other ones, whereas the subjunctive has "were" for all persons (I wish I were, as if it were).
So technically, in the best written British English you should say I were, but I was is so common otherwise.
It's much like I will/shall.

Sergio Santoro
Native speaker of: Native in ItalianItalian

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Luiza M. Charles de Oliveira: Exactly!
7 mins

agree  verbis
26 mins

neutral  Refugio: Why just British? You may find it hard to believe, but we Americans also value grammatical correctness.
1 hr

neutral  xxxsarahl: agree with Ruth, uncalled for.
3 hrs
  -> I really didn't mean it the offensive way it was taken
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +3
Just remember the song


Explanation:
If I were a rich man, budu-budu-budu-budu-bu

xxxBourth
Local time: 22:18
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Refugio: Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum?
23 mins
  -> Such good Yiddish!

agree  A.Đapo
1 hr

agree  Alaa Zeineldine: Or "If I were a carpenter" for the less aspiring and many more "if I were"'s :)
3 hrs

neutral  TonyTK: But you is rich, innit?
2 days 18 hrs
  -> I wish I was, er, were.... had been? SGs to you.
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3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +3
not to be graded


Explanation:
I wish I were is good and proper English

obviously, in spoken language, one can use "I wish I was"

yet this is STILL a mistake

yet if the text to be translated is slang or lower-class people "I wish I was" is all right

nevertheless, as far as I know, I wish+subjunctive

both in the UK and In the USA...................

ERGO;: I wish I were is the proper English form

all's well that ends well.................





hth

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-12-23 22:51:46 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

p.s.: please, letps keep rules as they are until they get FORMALLY changed....................

we are supposed to be translators who know the rules of the language, or?????????????


merry christmassssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

verbis
Local time: 22:18
Native speaker of: Native in ItalianItalian

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Steven Capsuto: Formally changed? By whom?
6 hrs

agree  David Moore: I agree entirely.....
12 hrs

agree  Refugio: But at the same time, we should try to keep the same register as the original, e.g., informal, colloquial, uneducated, etc.
20 hrs

agree  Valentina Pecchiar: "yet if the text etc.": Being there, seen it all!
1 day 2 hrs
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