Sadie’s Drinking Fountain

When Sadie and I came back from walking, she checked the drip bowl for water as I plugged in the fountain. It was dry, of course, since the leak had not yet begun. Hearing the water flowing in the fountain, she decided it would be much more elegant to drink standing up. She didn’t say if it were more efficient or not.

[Grammarians and proofreaders — Barbara, Ellie, Nancy, Chrissie. Would you comment on “if it were”? That was proper usage when I was in school, but I suspect common usage today would be “if it was”. I tried looking it up on line and got hopelessly lost. I would like to know what is proper usage today.]

17 thoughts on “Sadie’s Drinking Fountain

    1. Thank you Chrissie. I appreciate your feedback. I suspect you would use “was”, because that’s probably the way you hear it spoken. Perhaps grammarly is sticking to the standard rule, meaning the experts haven’t caved to current usage. I hope Ellie will see it and comment. Aunt Barbara would know, too

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  1. Lovely puppy and a curly grammar question which has tied me in knots. (Excuse my butting in. I used to write books about clear communication– there is no one worse!) In this case, the puppy had actually been drinking standing up, and had also experienced drinking from a sitting position. So you could assume this was not a hypothetical debate but a literal one, hence no need for thesubjunctive. (She’s not saying, if I were sitting, this would be easier.) On the other hand, you could assume something quite different, as puppies don’t talk. You are he writers you call the shots. What you wrote was clear: we know what you mean. Therefore you passed the test! PS at all costs don’t take my grammacrame –new word, coined today– seriously! You write wonderfully, Anne. I have never once until this moment thought of you making any grammar “mistakes.” Write into life!

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  2. Okay! The Grammar maven is here, back from my US vacay! In your sentence, “She didn’t say if it were more efficient or not,” it reads a little cockeyed to these rheumy ol’ eyes. I think it sounds more natural with “was.”

    When we say “if it were etc.,” that’s using the subjunctive case of the verb “to be,” and should be used only to reflect hypothetical actions or situations, as in: “If I were Queen of England, I would like breakfast in bed every day, hopefully featuring pancakes.” See? 😅 But in Sadie’s case, it’s quite straightforward. It was either more efficient, or else it wasn’t. Sadie wasn’t talkin’!


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