"I used to think it were my narrow attention span, but later I came to realise it was just the teacher".

In this sentence, I first describe a reality that is contrary to reality. Going by the book, the word "were" in the sentence should describe a subjunctive mood. Yet, to my ears at least, it seems a bit off-putting.

So the question is: was it correct to use "it were" in this sentence, or had it been more correct to use "it was" (if so, then why?)

Thank you.

  • It's wrong, as the answer below explains. I would add that modern grammar calls "were" the irrealis mood, not past subjunctive. The term 'subjunctive' is best used for expressions like "It is vital that I be kept informed", where the verb is the plain form.
    – BillJ
    Jul 25, 2017 at 15:33

1 Answer 1


Subjunctive were cannot be used freely, but only in certain syntactic contexts: primarily, after "if", or in the (rather literary) inverted form which is equivalent to "if".

A non-conditional clause introduced by "think" is not one of these contexts. So no, even among those who use subjunctive were, your example is not grammatical in present-day English.

  • Thank you for your answer. I broke my mind on this for a while now.
    – He7Man7
    Jul 25, 2017 at 14:44

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