Sara
A Question Sunjunctive Mood I have got two sentences here. “…as if he is rich” “…as if he were rich” Now, imagine I want to report these sentences. She told me as if the guy “was” rich. She told me as if the guy “were” rich. Are these sentences correctly reported? If so, is that why “were” is a better alternative for subjunctive moods? Thanks in advance!
Sep 23, 2012 12:39 AM
Answers · 8
When we use "were" in this context, it tells us he is definitely NOT rich (or at least, it's highly unlikely that he is). We're just imagining the possibility. Interestingly, "were" was used as the past subjunctive verb even before it had a past plural meaning. As for the reported speech, you'd change is to was (although the final sentence sounds a little odd: what are you really saying there?), and keep "were" as-is. PS. I've had a look around, with really no luck in finding a "...told me as if... was..." pattern. All the examples used "were".
September 23, 2012
In this case, "were" is preferred because it is counter-factual. He actually is not rich.
September 23, 2012
‘He acts as if he is rich’. This sentence implies that the guy is rich whereas in ' he acts as if he was/were rich' there is an uncertainty over his state of richness. In the latter, he's probably not rich or at least we think that he is not rich. In the second example, both’ was and were’ are possible in informal and formal occasions respectively, and the difference in the tense of the verb following 'as if', in this case to be, indicates whether he is rich or not. But, if the verb before 'as if' is in the past form, then the following verb should be in the past form too; *He acted as if he was/were rich * He acted as if he was/were rich In this case you have no choice but guess the meaning from the context. In the end, your example sentences are really ambiguous in the absence of the whole context. *He struts around the garrison as if he were the commander in charge.( it must be clear. he is not the commander.) *He strutted around the garrison as if he were/was the commander in charge.( he might be the commander or not, final deduction has to be made from the context.) 'He said that he strutted around the garrison as if he was/were the commander in charge'. If you report it this way. then you leave it to the reader to decide whether he is really the commander or not. in present it means the same . You need context!
September 23, 2012
Sara, When something is true or seems to be true, "as if" can be used with the present tense in modern English. It seems as if he is rich after all. (He very probably is rich.) He looks as if he has seen a ghost. Americans consume oil as if it's going out of style. As if I care what you think of me! (We would hardly say "It looks as if he be rich" even if the present subjunctive might have been grammatically correct 500 years ago.) How would you express it in reported speech? 1) You can use the present tense if you want to emphasize that it is still true at the time you report it. She said that it seems as if he is rich after all. 2) You can use the past tense if you want to remain neutral. She said that it seemed as if he was rich after all. If you used the past subjunctive "were" with a seemingly true fact in reported speech, you would cast more doubt on the statement than was originally intended. She said that it seemed as if he were rich after all. (It seemed that way, but maybe he wasn't.)
September 23, 2012
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