Friday, September 23, 2016

Why were is used with singular subjects in subjunctive mood ?

Question Why do we use were with singular subjects in the subjunctive mood?

Answer The use of were with singularsubjects has puzzled  many a foreign learner of English.They may understand  the use of past tense was in subjunctive mood  because that is the way of the English language  !But why were?

There was a time when two words existed side by side in English - was and were .  They were derived from the root word wesan which means to be in Anglo-Saxon.The  word was became were due to the operation of Verner's Law.

In course of time were came to be associated with subjunctive mood and was with indicative mood . This  practice has survived to our days , at least in formal style!

In my next blogs I will try to answer some commonly asked questions about the English language.   thanking you

Prof V.P.Rajappan


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  2. Hi Prof:
    Reading your post, I am interested in what you've brought up as the origin of language. I looked up Verner's Law on wiki and found the content hard to understand. Are there any articles for beginners to get to know those terms?

    1. According to Verner sound changes happened due to the shifting of stress .in primitive Germanic from which English originated . One of the changes is the change of S to R Was became were in accordance with this pattern. .