I passed a test and this question confuses me:

The young chick, separated from its mother after hatching, followed the family dog around as if the dog were its mother

I chose "was its mother" as the correct answer, but it seems like the correct answer is "were".

The question is, why are we using "were" when we are referring to a singular form of a third person?

The following makes sense to me:

... As if you were its mother

But using "were" for the answer is like saying "He were", which doesn't make sense to me. It must be "You were" and "He was".

What's the reason for this?

UPDATE: I've read the answer links that are marked as duplicates of this question. I already know those answers. But they are talking about "You", while my question is why we are still using "Were" when both of the subjects are "Him/Her", not "You".

  • Strictly speaking, were is "correct" there because it's a subjunctive usage. But in practice native speakers often just use Simple Past, even though some pedants object to things like If I was you I wouldn't do that. Apr 14, 2017 at 17:51
  • Related: “wasn't” vs “weren't”
    – sumelic
    Apr 14, 2017 at 17:52
  • @sumelic: I think my link covers the whole issue so much better that I've closevoted yours against it as well! But there's also the possibility here of as if the dog had been it's mother, which might be a whole nother ball game. Apr 14, 2017 at 17:55
  • @FumbleFingers But we are not talking about any "you" here. they are both absent, and both third person. I can understand when we say "as if YOU were" its mother, but not "as if HE were its mother". The post you marked as duplicate is considering a 2nd person too, which is not the case here.
    – Johansson
    Apr 14, 2017 at 18:33
  • 2
    Hi Jack, I have undeleted this question, because it is a well-written question, and I think it will help other learners find the other question. We are discussing it on our meta site if you have questions or concerns about why I undeleted it.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 14, 2017 at 23:01


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