Hey, I saw that post on your Facebook late last night, where you posted about how you wish you were dead and all. And I hope I’m not overstepping, but it made me want to check in with you. I know it’s been a while since we took that English class together in 10th grade, but still, I just want to reach out and let you know that it’s technically more correct to say, “I wish I were dead.”

The subjunctive mood is challenging. I get that. Who (or is it whom?) among us doesn’t occasionally make a grammatical flub? I’m not trying to make you feel bad or anything. It’s just important to me that you know: “I wish I was dead” implies that you wish you were somehow already dead at some unspecified point in the past.

And that’s ridiculous. You’re not dead right now, so you couldn’t have been dead in the past. Clarity is so important in writing, and I have a hard time even understanding what you're going for here.

When I read your post, what I really read is a cry out into the void for some sense of meaning. And I’m here to tell you that proper linguistic practice might just be your answer.

Do you mean, “I wish I had been dead?” That just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to say, unless you’re, like, a zombie. On second thought, I guess a zombie wouldn’t really understand English grammar either, especially since that zombie didn’t have the opportunity to take Ms. Henderson’s English class with us, huh?

So, if you ever feel like posting “I wish I was dead” again, please write this reminder on your heart: you have a lot of people who care about the things you’re saying online, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that, if you’re dealing with unrealities or potentialities, you should really be using “were.”

If you’re just too busy to remember the lessons that Ms. Henderson painstakingly taught us, I totally understand. Some people are just better at remembering certain things, I guess. Tell you what: I’ll remember these basic tenets of English grammar, and you remember this: anytime you want to reach out to someone about which word to use, my inbox is always open. Heck, you can even call me, as long as it’s before 9 PM or so.

I know that sometimes it seems like the world is just unfair. Bad things happening for seemingly no reason. I recognize all that. But that’s why we invented language. These rules give structure to an otherwise chaotic world. When I read your post, what I really read is a cry out into the void for some sense of meaning, some reassurance that there’s a greater order to it all. And I’m here to tell you that proper linguistic practice might just be your answer.

No need to thank me or anything. I’m no hero. I’m just a guy who paid attention in our English class. Maybe this is why you didn’t do so hot on the SATs? I know those graders really care about proper grammar, and it really bums me out that you might have made this silly mistake earlier, before I could set you on the right path. I wish I had been there to show you how misguided you were.

Damn, I wish you would’ve really applied yourself in Ms. Henderson’s class. But I guess there’s no point in talking about “wishing” with you, when you don’t seem to have properly reckoned with the power of the subjunctive mood.

If I were you, I’d just go ahead and delete that post as soon as possible, and then repost it with the proper “were.” No need to credit me in the repost. I’m just happy to be there for you when you need it.

So, yeah. It’s really important that you care about the power your words have. Anyway, hope you’re doing well! Let’s catch up next time I’m in town, yeah?


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