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I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main clause of the following:

If there were a 200-story office building without an elevator, those whose office was / were on the 180th floor would climb many steps each day.

I'd appreciate your help.

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  • Possible duplicate of "If something was" vs "If something were"
    – user29952
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 12:32
  • @user070221 No, you have no idea about the nature of the question. My question concerns whether a verb in the main clause should be subjunctive or indicative.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 12:36
  • You should edit your question to clarify it then.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 14:50
  • @ColleenV I already included "in the main clause of the following" in the question. Only those who refuse to consider the question carefully would think it is a duplicate of an earlier one.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 17:06

1 Answer 1

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The verb should be "were", but the reason is that "those whose office..." is not correct. Unless all of the people were sharing one office (pretty sure that's not what you mean to say), you should say, "offices" [plural].

So your sentence should be:

If there were a 20-story office building, those whose offices were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.

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  • What if the people did share an office?
    – Apollyon
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 15:22
  • If the people working on the 18th floor were all sharing one office on that floor, "office" would be singular, and you should use "was": "If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day."
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 15:31
  • The tricky part is this: if it is factual, why is it not in the indicative, i.e. "is"? If it is conditional, why is it not "were"?
    – Apollyon
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 15:47
  • In the "office-sharing" sentence, "whose office was..." is a phrase modifying "those". Since my ears are numb from all the "office(s)" business, consider the following, "If there were a tall building, and a man who is/was/were afraid of heights were to get a job there ...." Indicative "is" is OK. "Were" sounds weird, maybe because the fear of heights is a real attribute (of a hypothetical person). My choice would be "was" [past tense??]. I don't really know why. Perhaps my answer is wrong, but it still sounds OK to me.
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 16:58
  • @Apollyon Since you got me thinking, I am starting to feel "If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office is on the 18th floor would ..." [indicative "is"] might be acceptable (provided all those people shared the office), ... but I still prefer "was".
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 17:06

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