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If I Were You, I’d Learn the Difference Between “If I Was” & “If I Were”

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The use of “if I were” for imaginary situations is a bit different from using “if I was”. Learn when to use both correctly.

Is it "if I was" or "if I were"?
Read on to learn how to use “If I Was” & “If I Were”.
  • If I were is used when the subject of the sentence is referring to a hypothetical or imaginary situation.
    • If I were good at math and science, I would’ve become a doctor.
  • If I was is used to refer to a situation that actually happened in the past.
    • If I was late to school when I was younger, I’d get detention.

“If I Was” or “If I Were”?

If I was and if I were are often used interchangeably. But there’s a right way and a wrong way of using these if-phrases. To choose the correct phrasing, you need to know about subjunctive mood and indicative mood. We’ll teach you more below.

If I Were …

The subjunctive mood is used for hypothetical, imaginary, or contrary-to-fact situations. If I were is used in these circumstances.

If I were to win the lottery, I’d never tell my family or friends.
I’d join the military if I were stronger.
If I were not at this party, I’d be at home reading a book.
Beyoncé uses “if I were” because her being a boy is an imaginary situation.

If I Was …

The indicative mood refers to an actuality or declarative statement. Therefore, if I was is used to describe something that already happened in the past.

If I was good, my parents would buy me many gifts. But if I was bad, I’d get nothing.
Sorry if I was being a jerk earlier, I was just hungry.
If I was late to practice, the coach would make me run laps.

“If I Was” or “If I Were”—Examples

Here are some more examples of sentences with the if I was or if I were phrasing.

If I was to travel to New York, I’d visit the Empire State Building first.

If I were to travel to New York, I’d visit the Empire State Building first.

My focus would be reforming immigration laws if I was president.

My focus would be reforming immigration laws if I were president.

If I was there, I would've helped you.

If I were there, I would've helped you.

Quick Tip

When a sentence starts with if I was or if I were, it requires a comma after the first clause, whereas one is not always needed if these phrases are within the sentence.

“If I Was” or “If I Were”—There’s a Difference!

When you’re trying to remember which phrase to use, just ask yourself this: is what you’re referring to imaginary, or did it really happen? If it’s an imaginary situation, use if I were. If it really happened, use if I was.

If I were you, though, I’d make sure to use LanguageTool as my writing assistant. Not only will it correct these phrases if used incorrectly, but it will suggest stylistic improvements while also checking for spelling and grammar mistakes.

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