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
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


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
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 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. Commented Mar 31, 2020 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
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 21:15
  • 1
    "its proper use is still a mark of the educated speaker" this is true. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 21:39

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