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Could you tell me if both following sentences are perfectly natural and correct?

If he was doing his homework, he would have more time to hang out with his friends.

If he were doing his homework, he would have more time to hang out with his friends.

I'm aware that when the main verb in the if-clause is be then both was and were grammatically correct. Were is even more so, though. But, what about if it's part of the past pregressive in a condional sentence as in the example above?

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I'm aware that when the main verb in the if-clause is be then both was and were grammatically correct. Were is even more so, though.

The thing to keep an eye on here is if the if-clause is based on a completely hypothetical or improbable event (an unreal conditional). In such a case, we would use were. Your example is one of these. It's hypothetical because he's NOT doing his homework. Thus, were is the only correct conjugation.

An example of when we would use if he was, is if we're talking about an event that did in fact take place. For instance,

He was at home, doing his homework, officer.

If he was doing his homework, then he has an alibi.

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  • Re were [doing something] is the only correct conjugation, I don't think the continuous verb form is a good choice for OP's context in the first place. I'd much prefer to use Simple Past for "hypothetical / unreal current action" - If he did his homework [he could do blah blah]. That seems much more natural than If he were [to be] doing it. – FumbleFingers Oct 4 '20 at 14:03
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica - Yeah, that's a good point. But somehow, the way OP wrote it sounds quite natural to me as a present progressive. When you say "if he did his homework" it sounds ambiguous, as you could be referring to a past opportunity as well as a present one. But "if he were doing his homework" sounds like he should be doing it right now, but isn't. – Alec Oct 4 '20 at 14:15
  • If the reference was (were to have been? :) to a hypothetical/unreal past action, I suggest we'd say If he had done / were to have done / had have done [his homework]. For things that aren't happening now, "past" tense seems right to me: If he loved me he would marry me. – FumbleFingers Oct 4 '20 at 15:40

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