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I thought it was correct to say "If you were an animal...", then one day when I watched a talk show, I heard the host was saying " If you are an animal". I am confused which one should be the right expression.

  • This clause is non-factual. Use "were"(formal) or "was"(informal) – M.Zulkanien Jun 1 '16 at 14:29
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Either one can be correct. Without knowing the rest of the sentence you heard, it's not possible to know what the speaker meant.

If you were an animal generally refers to an unreal situation. An example is

If you were an animal (but it's not possible that you are), I would not have married you.

If you are an animal generally refers to a possibility.

If you are an animal (which is a real possibility), don't bother calling me.

Note another type of expression is possible:

If you are an animal, I'm a rock.

This is not a cause and effect relationship, as in the case of many conditionals.

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"If you were an animal" sounds like it would have been the grammatically correct way to say it. Saying "if you are an animal" by itself doesn't sound correct. Also (at least in American English) depending on how clearly he was enunciating, "you are" and "you were" can both sound very similar kind of like "you-ur".

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  • 3
    There is absolutely nothing grammatically wrong with "If you are an animal" - it is exactly parallel with "If you are a graduate". It is a little hard to find contexts in which it might make sense (though not impossible, as @AlanCarmack suggests) but that is not a grammatical questio. – Colin Fine Jun 1 '16 at 12:59

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