0

If I search in the internet, I find "hypothesis" is a singular word as I see "is" after it. But I found the following line in the book "Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data" by Charles Wheelan (in CHAPTER 9) -

if the null hypothesis were true and this were really a bus full of Changing Lives passengers;

Why "were" is used after "hypothesis"? Should not it be "hypothesis was true"?

5
  • Is this a cut and paste quote? Or retyped from memory? I call into question the use of were in "this were really" when its obvious a single bus,
    – user19179
    Oct 1, 2020 at 18:52
  • @GWarner copy-paste from "Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data" by Charles Wheelan
    – Michael
    Oct 1, 2020 at 19:40
  • I had found the source book, but not that exact quote, so I was curious.
    – user19179
    Oct 2, 2020 at 4:41
  • @GWarner in CHAPTER 9.
    – Michael
    Oct 2, 2020 at 7:56
  • The online version I found was suspect anyway. I hope you got your answer.
    – user19179
    Oct 2, 2020 at 23:34

1 Answer 1

0

According to Grammarly, this seems to be a case of interpreting whether the proposition is considered to be an 'unreal conditional' (something imagined and completely hypothetical) or whether it is something which is a realistic possibility. If it is the former, then 'were true' is correct. If it is the latter, then 'was true' is correct. I think more context is needed to make that determination.

Also, this is a tangent but I would question the word order of "were really". To me, "really were" sounds more correct (assuming 'were' is even correct).

5
  • Good catch. I completely missed that misplaced word order
    – user19179
    Oct 1, 2020 at 19:10
  • 1
    "Were" is correct for both (although "was" would also be considered correct for both, but "were" is often preferred in formal usage): the second "were" is just as much an irrealis form as the first, and for the same reasons. If you prefer, you can insert an extra "if": "if the null hypothesis were true and [if] this were really a bus full of Changing Lives passengers". (Having said that, omitting the second "if" has the advantage of emphasising the close connection between the two conditions.) As for the word order of "were really"/"really were", that's just a stylistic preference in my view.
    – rjpond
    Oct 1, 2020 at 20:24
  • @rjpond So the information in Grammarly is wrong?
    – kandyman
    Oct 2, 2020 at 8:25
  • Not exactly wrong (and it wasn't me who downvoted) but a bit too prescriptive for my liking. Lexico states: "The indicative may also be used, i.e. was instead of were, in all the examples above, but the subjunctive arguably conveys the hypothetical sense more forcefully." lexico.com/grammar/when-to-use-the-subjunctive
    – rjpond
    Oct 2, 2020 at 9:58
  • It sounds like Lexico is arguing the same point as Grammarly, i.e. that 'were' is preferred in the case of an unrealistic conditional and 'was' is preferred where that is not the case.
    – kandyman
    Oct 2, 2020 at 19:02

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .