I wish she was/were

 

Q:

I have been confused about the use of was/were. I see it so often (in conversational speech and in print) where a singular subject is used with the verb "were."

For example,

I wish she were more direct with her feedback.

I've heard that, and to me it should be:

I wish she was more direct with her feedback.

Am I right, or do I need a 7th grade grammar course refresher?

Anne Shipman Claussen
[email protected]
Posted 20 February 2003

A:
"I wish she were more direct with her feedback" is correct. This is an example of the rarely used subjunctive in English.

"Were" is the form of "be" to use after "wish" ?in all persons ?when you are referring to a present situation that is a fantasy, that is untrue, that describes the situation the way you want it to be, not the way that it really is. In your sentence, the reality is that she is not direct with her feedback, but you are wishing for the opposite situation, the fantasy.

"I wish she was more direct" does occur, of course, but it is considered less formal, and perhaps by prescriptive grammarians, "less correct."

(To see a related message, on "Wish clauses,"

click here.)