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I recently stumbled upon the following sentence (while taking an online english class):

He sat there, as it were his office.

I immediately thought that it's wrong, but after familiarizing myself with subjunctives, I'm not so sure anymore. It would make perfect sense to me to have the sentence say

He sat there as if it were his office

, but without the "if", it feels wrong. Is the lack of "if" justified here?

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    Please wait at least 12 hours before accepting an answer.
    – user3395
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 18:57
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    I think you are correct. It's missing an "if". Commented May 19, 2020 at 21:20
  • @Jack O'Flaherty is absolutely right. Collins dictionary defines "as it were", in British English, as "as if it were really so". Though "as it were" is a fixed phrase, sometimes we can use if after 'as', without any change in meaning. Commented May 20, 2020 at 2:06
  • @userr2684291 i revoked my approval, judging by the comments it looks like I might have been too hasty
    – Marcin
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 11:46

2 Answers 2

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The first sentence is indeed wrong. "He sat there, as it were his office" means "He sat there, so to speak, his office", which, if anything, means "In a manner of speaking, he was his office"!

Therefore it does need to be "He sat there as if it were his office".

Whoever wrote the first sentence had evidently been confused by the set phrase "as it were", which in fact has nothing to do with the intended meaning of the sentence.

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"As it were" is used for making a description sound less definite and less exact. Collins dictionary defines : "As it were" means "as if it were really so".

Therefore, both your sentences are ok and denote the same meaning.

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    Collins defines it as "as if it were so", but the it doesn't refer to the office, but to the general situation or something along those lines; it's a fixed phrase at any rate. If you substitute it directly into the sentence at issue, it won't make any sense. Please do not post answers regarding usage of words and phrases you have no experience with.
    – user3395
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 19:08
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    Collins defines "as it were", in British English, as 'in a way'; 'so to speak'; 'as if it were really so'. Commented May 20, 2020 at 1:58
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    Yup. "He sat there, (in a way / so to speak / as if it were (really) so), his office." makes no sense.
    – user3395
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 2:05
  • In the example of the OP, replacing 'as it were' with 'as if it were' doesn't make any difference in sense. So, I agree to disagree with you here. Commented May 20, 2020 at 2:10
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    Yes it does. Look carefully. "He sat there, as it were, in his office" might mean roughly the same thing as "He sat there as if it were his office", although it's very awkward. But "He sat there, as it were his office" means "He sat there, so to speak, his office", which if anything means "in a manner of speaking, he was his office".
    – A. B.
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 11:44

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