Tag Archives: subjunctive mood

Bieber peever

Dear Justin,

I love ya, kiddo. You have a sweet smile. Your music is catchy enough. You’re tight with your mama.

Since you first made the scene, your mother has been right by your side. I’ve read that she took over your schooling when you were on the road. I admire that. But you’re eighteen now. It’s time you took responsibility for your education.

I was encouraged to hear you tell the ladies on The View that you looked forward to continuing to mature and learn. You seem to be a grounded, smart, reasonably articulate young man and, quite likely, you have plenty of smart, articulate people working for you.

Here’s the thing.

It’s your new hit single, “Boyfriend.” You know, don’t you, dear, that “If I was your boyfriend” is incorrect? Not incorrect in the musically acceptable ain’t-got-no way. Incorrect in the it-sounds-right-to-me-and-anyhow-that’s-what-everybody-says way. I’m disappointed that your mother, your fellow songwriters, producers, agents and marketeers didn’t advise you to change one simple word, just to make you sound like the smart young man you probably are.

Justin, in case your lessons skipped over the subjunctive mood, or you missed my blog post on the topic, it’s not “If I was your boyfriend.” It’s “If I were…” As in “If I Were a Rich Man.” That one ought to be easy for you to remember.

When your ditty, now #11 on the Top 40 charts, comes on the radio, I change the station. When Jazzercise plays it during my leg routine, I burn extra calories by fuming over the horrid grammar.

If I were your mother, I’d take a red pen to your little opus. Okay, I’d be willing to overlook all of your colloquialisms. I’d even let you rhyme “go” with “before.” But I’d ask you set a good example for your young fans and get the big stuff right:

“Boyfriend”
Written by Mike Posner, Matthew Musto, Mason Levy (edited by the Word Nymph)

If I was were your boyfriend, I’d never let you go
I can take you places you ain’t never been before
Baby take a chance or you’ll never ever know
Ive got money in my hands that I’d really like to blow
 Swag swag swag, on you
Chillin’ by the fire why while were eatin’ fondue
I dunno about me but I know about you
So say hello to falsetto in three two

I’d like to be everything you want
Hey girl, let me talk to you

[Chorus]
If I was were your boyfriend, never let you go
Keep you on my arm girl, you’d never be alone
I can be a gentleman, anything you want
If I was were your boyfriend, I’d never let you go, I’d never let you go

Tell me what you like yeah tell me what you don’t
I could be your Buzz Lightyear flying across the globe
I don’t never wanna fight yeah, you already know
I‘ma make you shine brightly like you’re laying lying in the snow
Girlfriend, girlfriend, you could be my girlfriend
You could be my girlfriend until the —- world ends
Make you dance do a spin and a twirl and
Voice goin’ crazy on this hook like a whirlwind

I’d like to be everything you want
Hey girl, let me talk to you

[Chorus]
If I was were your boyfriend, never let you go
Keep you on my arm girl you’d never be alone
I can be a gentleman, anything you want
If I was were your boyfriend, I’d never let you go, I’d never let you go

[Bridge]
So give me a chance, ‘cause you’re all I need girl
 Spend a week wit your boy I’ll be calling you my girlfriend
If I was were your man, I’d never leave you girl
I just want to love you, and treat you right

[Chorus]
If I was were your boyfriend, never let you go
Keep you on my arm girl you’d never be alone
I can be a gentleman, anything you want
If I was were your boyfriend, I’d never let you go, never let you go

Na na na, na na na, na na na
Ya girl
 Na na na, na na na, na na na ey
 Na na na, na na na, na na na ey
 Na na na, na na na, na na na ey

If I was were your boyfriend

What?! Your mama didn’t teach you lie versus lay?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Music

In a perfectly tense mood

While we are on a grammar roll, here’s another one. 

My interest comes about, as it often does, as a result of an aural assault by a well-meaning speaker.  Typically, once the bristle passes, I look up the pertinent rule to be sure I understand it.

This one has to do with a mishmash of subjunctive mood and conditional perfect and past perfect tenses and the errors people are prone to making with regard to these verb uses.

For whatever reason, I never fully appreciated things like mood versus tense  until I studied foreign languages.  And still, I know them more intuitively than by the rules themselves.

If the following phrases make you bristle, then you don’t need the review.  If they sound perfectly fine, read on.

  1. “I wish I would have kept the appointment.”
  2. “If I would have known you were going, I’d have offered you a ride.”
  3. “If I was in your shoes, I’d be worried.”
  4. “If I would have went to the party, I would have had a good time.” 

You could drive yourself crazy reading all the rules.  But feel free.  They are long and involved and I’d probably miss some nuance in explaining it anyway.  I’ve included the relevant Wikipedia links above because they are the simplest and most accessible online sources for this purpose, in my opinion.

Or, you could simply train your ear to pick up on the errors and correct them before you speak.  Often, it simply means taking out “would” or changing “was” to “were,” but not always.  Here are some tricks you might use to keep it straight.  Maybe you have some of your own.

If you are tempted to say “I wish I would have . . .,” think about The Rolling Stones’ “I Wish I’d Never Met You” and remember to say, “I wish I had . . .”   No would.

If you are tempted to say “If I would have known . . .,” think of the 1950 song, “If I Knew You Were Comin’, I’d’ve Baked a Cake,” then say, “If I knew” or “If I had known…”   For you younger readers, the song was also sung on Sesame Street, so you’ve probably heard itJust try to get past the double contraction.

If you are tempted to say “If I was,” think of Fiddler on the Roof and the song, “If I Were a Rich Man.”  It’s were, not was.  Subjunctive mood, conditional perfect tense.  Or some might call it imperfect past subjunctive.

Finally, if you are tempted to utter the double whammy, “If I would have went,” then you are probably not reading this blog anyway.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Music