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Although shouldn’t that be “If Green Lantern WERE A Pervert”?

Junior editors?


  1. “Was” is correct. If they were talking about the entire GLCorps, then it would be “were” instead. (“What if the Green Lanterns Were All Perverts?”)

    Was = singular subject
    Were = plural subjects

  2. I’ll go Greg one further, if you’ll permit a little conjugation in the comments (hide the kids!)

    I was
    You (singular) were
    She/He was
    We were
    You (plural) were
    They were

    The exception to Greg’s singular/plural is “You” – unless “You was a pervert” makes grammatical sense to you. It sounds like Metal Machine Music to me.

  3. When in doubt, replace the subject with the appropriate pronoun, then conjugate.

    If you need to use the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional tense, use a time machine and change events to eliminate the need. You will, however, be forced to submit a report in triplicate concerning your manipulation of the time stream. Some individuals, frustrated with the numerous verb tenses required to accurately record their travels, have attempted to further chronally manipulate the bureaucrats out of existence. However, most people just go forward in time and download their submitted report from the government archives, and then take it back in time right before the filing deadline.

  4. Thank heavens all those years of Latin trained me in the conditional subjunctive.

    And thank heavens all those additional years of seeing it butchered have inured me to the offenders.

  5. Interesting. I was referring to the various cases of the subjective not simple tense here! I guess mood in grammar is one of those things that went out with the proper use of the possessive apostrophe.

    I seem to remember some different uses of the conditional subjective and….some other subjective.

  6. I was referring to the various cases of the subjective not simple tense here!

    The subjunctive was furiously waving its hand in the back of brain, but it was too early for me to pay it any heed.

  7. English has poor support for the subjunctive mood, using the same forms as the indicative most of the time. Most anglophones don’t even know that such a thing exists. (I first heard of it when I learned Spanish, which conjugates every verb differently when it’s subjunctive.) In another 100 years, I expect it will have disappeared* from the English language altogether.

    *I have no idea what the proper term for this tense is, but I’m reasonably sure it’s correct. :)

  8. It’s subjunctive. “If I were…” Second conditional = a hypothetical present.

    “English Teacher” Alistair.

  9. But if Heidi hadn’t posted this, we wouldn’t be discussing English grammar! (oog… did I mix my tenses?)

    Subjunctive is used to express a possibility. Past indicative would express what has actually occurred (He was…). Past subjunctive expresses what might have been (If he were…).

  10. You *could* use the subjunctive, but it’s one of those things that’s clearly on its way out of the English language; plenty of native speakers don’t use it at all, and of those who do, most only use it in certain contexts. If there ever was a rule that required its use in this sort of situation, the language has plainly moved on. My copy of the Cambridge Grammar of English describes the subjunctive as used only in literary and formal English. You could make a stylistic argument for using it here because of the mock pomposity of Silver Age strap lines, but it’s certainly not compulsory any more.

  11. Woah!!!??? If I were you, I wouldn’t make too many claims about the subjunctive (or Type 2 conditionals) going out of use. Sure, if you ain’t been brung up right like what I was, like. But generally this non-use or misuse of the “If I were you” is down to which social class you were assigned to by the great “Social Class Assigner” in the sky. If I was you is just bad English.

  12. Grammar rules do change over time. For example, many people might write “If someone were to claim their prize before the ceremony was held” instead of “If someone were to claim his prize before the ceremony was held” because defaulting to “his” is considered sexist. I don’t object to that anymore. Perhaps grammarians should be thankful that “womyn” never caught on.


  13. In constructions like this, people often thing that the subjunctive mood is on the way out, but if you were to remove it from other sentences, I think it more obviously sounds “wrong”:

    “I wish I was an Oscar Meyer weiner.”

    “I wouldn’t do that if I was you.”

    “I wish he was smarter.”

    Those are all examples where I think most people would agree “was” should be “were,” and they’re all examples of subjunctive mood.

    I always correct Morrissey when I sing along to “Every Day Is Like Sunday”: “How I dearly wish I were not here.”

  14. My grammar dictionary suggests that the subjunctive is “still common in American English, while in British English they are confined to very formal styles”.

    Which might suggest a reason for the diversity of views here regarding whether or not it’s on the wane.

    (Although I’m British, and I’d instinctively use it).

  15. Yeah, you have to squint and imagine that first sentence reads properly. Because instead of “the subjunctive”, I definitely wrote “subjunctive forms”. It only looks like I didn’t.

  16. Jennifer: Honestly, no, none of those sounds wrong to me at all. They all sound completely natural. The only example where I’d agree that the subjunctive is clearly better is “If I were you…”, but I think that’s because the phrase is an established idiom in its own right. The subjunctive doesn’t sound *wrong* to me in the other cases, but I can’t honestly say that I see them as anything other than interchangeable.

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