Just to clarify: I am not the grammar police. Not even after 20 years of being a professional writer and 8 years of being an English teacher. It’s too frustrating. And heartbreaking – it’s to show possession, Smith’s to indicate plurality, and their to contract “they are.” There are just no words for it. Though if you were Trumpkin, these might do: Beards and bedsteads! Thimbles and thunderstorms! Cobbles and kettledrums! Weights and water-bottles!
Which brings us to the English verb – 3 simple tenses, 3 past tenses, 6 progressive forms, the emphatic “do” form, and hey, how about that modal trinity of can-must-should – and LUCKY LUCKY US, beside all those tenses, let’s not forget The Many Moods of Verbs (which rather sounds like a title of a 70s soft-listening LP).
“If you were Trumpkin” is a prime example of one such mood: the subjunctive.
Of or pertaining to that mood of the finite verb that is used to express a future contingency, a supposition implying the contrary, a mere supposition with indefinite time, or a wish or desire.
Yeah. That thing.
We’ve all heard it.
“If I were a rich man, yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.”
“If I were king of the for-eheheheheheheheheheh-st.”
From these, one might reasonably conclude that the subjunctive mood has more to do with lyrical freestyling and jabberwocky antics than with a verbal mood.
If I was. If I were. Does it really matter?
To some people, yes. They argue that if we were to subjugate our subjunctives so as to use them less subjectively and more submissively (in respect to grammar rules) and more subliminally (in respect to rhetorical flair) our speech would more accurately reflect our progressive civility and refinement (or maybe our panties-scrunched-in-a-bunch-ness) and the world would be a better place. For you. And me. You just wait and see.
Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know.
But I do know this: if I were a rich woman and also were queen of the forest, I would be able to buy more books and store them in my ever-expanding royal library, which would definitely make the world a better place. For me. For me. You just wait and see.