A person I know was asked this question on a test. I believe the operative word in this sentence is "immediately", which I believe makes this sentence a wish and therefore subjunctive, but my whole analysis may be incorrect. Please help me understand which is correct.

We would leave immediately if Jane were ready.

We would leave immediately if Jane was ready.

  • 1
    The presence of the word "immediately" makes absolutely no difference to the syntax of the cited example. Nor does it really affect the meaning - it just emphasizes leave [without delay]. Sep 29 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


I don't know about "second conditionals", but it is a counterfactual (Jane is evidently not ready), and so for those English speakers who use it at all, the subjunctive "were" is appropriate.

Many English speakers do not, or only use it in formal contexts.

  • 2
    I agree, although there is also an alternative reading. If the passage is discussing a past habit, like “When we were children…” then it can mean, “On those occasions when Jane was ready, we would [habitually] leave immediately.” On that reading, “if Jane was ready” is the better (only?) choice. Sep 29 at 18:33
  • Seconding both answer and comment. The default reading is certainly the irrealis (we aren't leaving because Jane isn't ready), in which case the subjunctive is required, regardless of "immediately", but the habitual past is also possible. Sep 29 at 18:45

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