Conventions of Composition Rule 152

Rule: Use the subjunctive to show that a verb is contrary to fact or expressing desire. The subjunctive form is the past, plural form of a verb: were (not was), took, would, called, etc.

Note: Was is wrong for the subjunctive form were in conditions contrary to fact, in impossible or improbable conditions, and in wishes.


Correct: If I were you, I’d learn this.

Correct: If I lived for a million years, I’d probably lose my teeth.

Correct: If I climbed Mount Everest, I would bring food.

Correct: It is imperative that he do his homework daily.

Practice using the subjunctive:

  1. If I was able to eliminate all Saturday classes, I'm not sure I would.
  2. If Robbie was in charge of the world, music would come out of all sidewalk vents.
  3. I wouldn't recommend eating a handful of habanero peppers, even if you can.
  4. I wish my family and I have a million dollars.
  5. Harley and Justice insist that Cam thinks this proposal through.

Resources for further explanation of the correct use of the subjunctive:

English Page's Subjunctive

Oxford Living Dictionary's When to use the Subjunctive