Which of the three options is the correct one for this sentence? Why?

The friends found a strange old map under the bed. They were very impressed because it was dirty as if it was / it were / it had been very ancient.

  • 1
    Had been very ancient would mean it was no longer ancient. Commented Jul 7 at 14:32
  • As a consequence, just "as if it was" and "as if it were" are correct?
    – Simo Ita
    Commented Jul 7 at 14:36
  • 1
    As if hints that we are guessing. It is not really old. If it were, that would explain the dust. Commented Jul 7 at 14:41
  • Thanks for your reply, Yosef. However, I don't understand which the correct answer is.
    – Simo Ita
    Commented Jul 7 at 16:11
  • I gave you hints instead of answers. Some people learn that way better than hearing what's correct. My second comment had the answer, but you must bring something to it for you to see it. Commented Jul 7 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


It is traditionally regarded as correct to use the subjunctive after as if, especially when we know the thing we are supposing is not true (the map isn't ancient).

It was dirty as if it were very ancient.

If it's not certain whether it's true or not (the map may not be old), it's OK to use the normal past tense - as if it was.

  • Thanks a lot for your clear explanation, Kate.
    – Simo Ita
    Commented Jul 7 at 16:34

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