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Back to Our Robin Cook Examples

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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So why are the examples at the beginning of this chapter incorrect?

Here are the examples from the best-selling Toxin:

1. Kelly regarded Tracy in an attempt to interpret her comment. Kelly couldn’t quite decide if it were [was] meant to be disdainful or merely informative. Robin Cook, Toxin, p. 16 (Berkely Books, 1999).

Note: The couldn’t quite decide shows that Kelly doesn’t know if describing the comment as disdainful is contrary to fact. If Kelly knew that the comment was not meant to be disdainful, then the sentence would read: Kelly knew that if the comment were meant to be disdainful, Tracy would have . . . .

2. Mrs. Turner answered just as Kim opened the car door. Without any pleasantries, he asked if George were [was] available. Toxin, p. 110.

Note: Here there’s no showing of a situation that is hypothetical or contrary to fact. Kim simply wanted to know if George was available.

3. Now he wanted to find her with even more urgency than earlier, and if she were [was] indeed injured, he wanted to find the individual responsible. Toxin, p. 277.

Note: Saying if she were injured gives the impression that she was not injured. Thus he could not possibly find the individual responsible for her noninjury.


Previous: Situations Requiring the Subjunctive Mood Next: Let’s now fix the chapter title…

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