I’m about to give my first specific grammar lecture, and it is about…
WERE VS. WAS.
And I’m very passionate about this topic, so pay attention and I’ll try to refrain from using caps lock any more than I have to.
There is a list of things I hate and, right underneath the color yellow, seeing the word was used incorrectly is towards the top. For example…
I wish I was a millionaire that never had to pay for cat food.
That literally wants to make me barf. Let me correct that sentence before I start gagging…
I wish I were a millionaire that never had to pay for dog food.
(I may or may not have changed more than one thing… oh well.)
So, here’s why it was originally terribly wrong: the sentence is written in the subjunctive form, meaning it hasn’t actually happened and is only just a dream or a wish. If you don’t understand that, you probably won’t get it, even if I were to explain it further, so let’s just keep going; it’s not a big deal, anyway.
So, any time you want to say ‘I wish…’ or ‘If…’, you’re more than likely using the subjunctive form. Which, in turn, means you’re likely going to want to use were, just so Kari doesn’t get sick. Also, every subject form you use (I, you, we, they, he, she, it… y’all) will use were, so there is never a time you should use was in the subjunctive form.
Here’s some more examples:
How would you handle things if you were to win?
I wish she were here with me.
If only they weren’t so greedy.
As you can tell, most of the time, the words if and wish will be used, so you can take that as a hint any time you’re writing or speaking. However, sometimes you just have to pay attention closely to how your sentence sounds. For example…
It’s about time the kids were in bed.
I’d rather it be you weren’t so antsy.
Those types of sentences are really hard to word correctly, though, too, I think, so you could just rephrase them without using the were at all.
Now, if you’ve really been paying attention (which you probably haven’t because even I didn’t realize this until now), then you would notice that all of those examples were in the present/future tenses. So… what do we do when we want to wish about things that could have happened in the past tense?
If I had been smarter in high school, I would’ve known better.
She wishes she had known better than that.
They all wish they had been better friends.
So, there’s the basic outline of your answer. When you’re wishing about the past use had been. Or had known… had played… had felt… you get what I’m getting at, I hope.
Bottom line is… just don’t use was, haha. Unless you’re using it the average way, like in ‘I was the best thing that ever happened to you!’ or ‘He was the star player in his youth.’ I’ll assume you know how to use was and were correctly in that context, then.
SO, IF YOU DIDN’T READ ANY OF THAT… REMEMBER TO ALWAYS USE WERE WHEN YOU WANT TO SAY ANYTHING AFTER AN IF OR A WISH. That even rhymes, how convenient!
Also… had been for the ‘way back when’.
Oh, I feel so much better after furiously typing all of that.
Let me know if I’ve enlightened you or if confused you even more!