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I have a question about the 2nd conditional structure. I've search it through the site, but still can't come up with a proper answer.

  • If the weather ___ so bad, we could go to the zoo.

What should we fill in the gap, "wasn't" or "weren't"? Can the two be possible? Please explain and include a reference if it is available.

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  • Have you used a dictionary to see the difference between 'weren't' and 'wasn't'? Questions that can be answered that way are off-topic here.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 14:10
  • I've read about it via Cambridge dictionary online. However, I really need an answer for this question as it has been used in a recent exam of my child. I'm just a non-native English speaker, so I'm not sure about this grammar point. Please help!
    – KH-vn
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 14:33
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    @Astralbee, no dictionary has definitions for negative contractions as separate from their non-negative counterparts because they're not words. Even in the case of a legitimate single-word auxiliary contraction like "cannot", a dictionary wouldn't say anything about grammatical subtleties. A better reference would be Swan's Practical English Usage or similar, but that's not a dictionary, so this question is on-topic.
    – gotube
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 16:34
  • @gotube No dictionary, except all of the major ones. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/wasn-t
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 21:17
  • @gotube Even if a dictionary simply defines the contraction, one can then use the dictionary to look up the words in the contraction.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 21:19

1 Answer 1

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As the sentence seems to be talking about the present, "wasn't" is the grammatically correct choice. Note, however, that many people in casual speech might well use "weren't" here, and a fluent speaker would understand this as having the same meaning.

Note also that terms like "second conditional" represent an oversimplification used as a teaching device for ESL learners. This classification is not taught to or used by native speakers, and it excludes many valid conditional forms that are easy to get wrong.

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    Actually, the "super correct" choice is if the weather weren't so bad, but wasn't is acceptable nowadays. The throwback "subjunctive" causes a lot of confusion.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 19:42

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