The subjunctive ‘were’

Try and answer this question:

I wish he ………………

A. was                  B. were

Have you done that? Now consider the correct answer.

I wish he were here………….shocked?

Now see the explanation below:

The sentence above is in the subjunctive mood, which is used in expressing a wish or something which actually isn’t real or factual–it is imaginative or hypothetical. In this mood, we use were to march the subject, be it singular or not.


1. I wish my father were alive.[ The mere fact here is my father is not alive, so I am just imagining his presence]

2. If he were my brother, I would beat him. [ The fact here is he is not my brother. This renders the sentence imaginative or non-factual, and for that reason, were is used instead of was]

3. He behaved as if he were my brother.

4. Supposing she were there, you would have been granted access.

TAKE NOTE of the usage of the subjunctive were in the above sentences. All the sentences were not factual. They were wishes, imaginations or statements contrary to fact.



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