Friday, January 28, 2011

"I Wish I Were..."

Some not-very-nice and just-plain-wrong woman wrote that I shouldn't have been an English teacher (so funny) because on a blog post I wrote, "I wish I were..."

I was peeved when I read that, but someone else quickly jumped on this commenter for getting it wrong and for being obnoxious. Intelligent people know how to use language, after all, because they are well read and have naturally absorbed its rules. Besides, anyone whose opinion I respect knew she was out of line.

Using "were" after "I wish" even if it seems odd is actually CORRECT.

Here's a cute tutorial from Grammar Girl on the subject (and a few others):

Quote from the link:  The mood of the verb "to be" when you use the phrase "I were" is called the subjunctive mood, and you use it for times when you're talking about something that isn't true or you're being wishful.

Modified Quote: If a sentence starts with words "I wish"--I wish I were more perceptive--that's about the biggest clue you can get that a sentence is wishful. Wishful sentences call for the subjunctive mood of the verb "to be," so the right choice is "I were."

Extended Quote: Here's another example to help you remember. Think of the song “If I Were a Rich Man,” from Fiddler on the Roof. When Tevye sings “If I were a rich man,” he is fantasizing about all the things he would do if he were rich. He's not rich, he's just imagining, so "If I were" is the correct statement. This time you've got a different clue at the beginning of the line: the word "if." Although it's not always the case, sentences that start with "if" are often also wishful or contrary to fact. 

My Quote: I wish that blog commenters who make a hobby of attacking other people's intentions and purpose were more educated.


  1. Wow! I know "I wish I were" is correct, and I'm not even an English teacher! I'm not even a native English speaker! Incredible. Let's just hope this woman is not an English teacher herself.

  2. Seriously! I have been criticized for "I wish I were" AND "If I were" (both explained in the link). It's just so ridiculous.

    I am probably being snarked on by the same people who don't quite understand when to use "I" and when to use "me"--and probably the same type who always say "Her and I..."--my biggest peeve. i hear that one constantly, by all ages.

    Thanks for reading!



  3. Where was this comment? Think I saw something of this ilk on a right-wing ranter board. Does that sound correct?

  4. That sounds about right. Probably a freeper (Free Republican). What else would you expect? Freepers are, as my fellow college alum Rahm Emanuel might say, "fucking retarded."