Russians create artificial human brain

Charles R Martin crmartin at
Mon Apr 16 21:03:51 EST 2001

mark edward hardwidge <hardwidg at> writes:

> In David Ehrens <nospam at> wrote:
> > Most journalists would have used the subjunctive, "were".
> 	I'm kind of stupid.  Could you remind me of exactly when we
> use "was" and when we use "were"?  Some cases are obvious to me, but
> not all.

There are a couple of different things involved.  "Were" is the second
person past "state of being" verb, ie, "I was there Friday" vs "we
were there Friday".  Practically every native American speaker uses
those successfully.

The tougher one is what's called the "subjunctive mood", which is a
grammatical structure for expressing something that might happen or
might have happened, but did not.  So, for example, "If I was at
Ford's Theatre that night" expressly includes the chance that I
*might* have been there as a point of fact, while "if I _were_ at
Ford's Theatre that night" is expressing a hypothetical possibillity,
but one that the speaker doesn't believe to have been a fact.

Most native American speakers, especially from the flyover states like
Colorado, tend to mix up these uses of "was" and "were" and simplify to
the plain old past tense.

(I finally learned to differentiate them when I was living in Germany,
because where in English it just sounds a little odd, in German using
"hatte" when you meant "hátte" apparently sounds as illiterate as when
a hillbilly American says something like "t'aint so no how."  But I
had to find an buy an English grammar book to get a clue what my
German friends were trying to explain.)

> -- Mark E. Hardwidge hardwidg at

No one is patriotic about taxes. -- George Orwell
				 Charlie Martin, Broomfield, CO USA 40 N 105 W

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