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Dear Mitch,

Since the SAT test is only three days away, could you continue explaining how to do the multiple choice on the writing section?


K. Ebberhard


Dear K. Ebberhard,

Of course!

We left off with the last of the three sentences in the group that I was using to demonstrate one of the SAT's most common tricks.  The sentence was this:

If I was you, I would get your seatbelt back on and refrain from making any more of your stupid comments until we arrive at the hotel.

Now, as stated in the previous post, the sentence is not correct as written.

The word in question is "was", in the portion of the sentence that reads, "if I was you..."

This is probably one of the most commonly confused/misused words in the English language, though it only seems to present a challenge in certain contexts.

Very often, even in the singular case (If I was you...), we know from experience (both auditory and from readings of printed materials), that the word choice is NOT "was," but were, as in "IF I were you...", and that is how most people say and express the sentiment.  However, what people often do not seem to realize is that the word "were" does NOT ALWAYS necessarily folllow "If I ... "

It follows "If I" in the case of the impossible, as in, "It is impossible that I could ever be you, just as it is impossible that you could ever be me."

However, consider the sentence, "If I was in the room with the murder weapon at the time of the scream, wouldn't I be likely to try to diminish the importance of this fact?"

Here, it is not impossible that I was there at the time, so WAS is the correct word.  Typically, though, whenever we see "IF I...," it is a good idea to consider the cases in which "were" would be the correct choice.


Hope this helps,