Which one is grammatically correct : I wish I was born in 1900 / I wish I had been born in 1900 / I wish I were born in 1900 ? And why ?

  • I think the second. You are not wishing to be born, but wishing you were in the situation of having been born in 1900. Apr 23, 2020 at 16:01
  • @KateBunting care to elaborate in an answer? I know you probably didn't post one because it would be too short, but comments under the question are hardly the best of places for the answers to the question.
    – M.A.R.
    Apr 23, 2020 at 17:52

1 Answer 1


Had been.

Traditionally were is used for non-past irrealis (counterfactual) clauses: I wish I were able to leave my house now,

and had been for past irrealis clauses: I wish I had been able to leave my house last week.

However, the use of were is declining, and many people don't use it, or don't use it in speech, but substitute was.

Traditionally was (like is) is used for realis (non-counterfactual) conditionals like If he was there, I didn't see him. (i.e. I don't know if he was there or not, so he could have been), and contrasts with irrealis were. But this is irrelevant for wish, because its meaning is necessarily irrealis. So people who use were in conditionals also use it with wish, and people who use was use it in both places. But this is not directly relevant to your question, because it is necessarily a past irrealis, and so has to be had been.

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