I understand that if I refer to my heart (my leg, my hair, etc.), it is third person singular and so I should use "WAS", but there's a song called "If my heart WERE a ball" that brought this question to me. Is there a difference on its use or is this a mistake?

  • 1
    Google "subjunctive mood" :) – shin Mar 31 '20 at 19:05

It's a special form of "to be" used in counterfactual clauses. That is when what you are saying isn't true: my heart is not a ball.
Here is a reference to that use:
Wikipedia "use of the past subjunctive"
"The main use of the past subjunctive form, were, which is also known as the irrealis is in counterfactual if clauses."

Another reference discusses the form extensively:
Thoughtco "past subjunctive"

In ordinary speech, in your example sentence, some people will use the form "was".

  • Thank you for answer, now I know something else. So, regarding on that, another song called "If my heart WAS a house" is mistakenly written? Here are the links to both songs, so you can see I'm not joking: youtube.com/watch?v=GOcB-1QfpuM - youtube.com/watch?v=nKYzqA2Vgco – Juan Mar 31 '20 at 19:44
  • Note the last sentence of my answer. It's common for people to use "was" in that situation. I wouldn't call it mistaken, it's just language changing. – Jack O'Flaherty Mar 31 '20 at 21:02
  • Ok, I didn't see that. I was reading your linked page and found this phrase to explain that duality: "Although the [were] subjunctive seems to be disappearing from the speech of many, its proper use is still a mark of the educated speaker". Thanks again. Kudos! – Juan Mar 31 '20 at 21:15
  • 1
    "its proper use is still a mark of the educated speaker" this is true. – Michael Harvey Mar 31 '20 at 21:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.