What If

What if the bottom fell out of the economy? Oh wait.

What if Cher had a comeback?

What if the machines didn’t know what chicken tasted like, so that’s why chicken tastes like everything?

What if I found an awesome(sauce) job, but it required moving to a new state?

I believe that ‘what if’ is the source of creative genius. Asking this question can lead you to an infinite number of answers. Some are whimsy. Others are inventions. In 1903, Mary Anderson noticed that streetcar drivers in New York had to roll down their windows in the rain to see. She thought, ‘What if there was a way to clean the window while driving?” and invented the windshield wiper.

But of all the places ‘what if’ takes me, I inevitably arrive at… grammar.

What if I understood grammar?

Special grammar super-rules apply to expressing a wish or hypothesis. From this article, you can see that the past subjunctive must be used when expressing a wish or hypothesis. For our what ifs, the past subjunctive is used after the conjunction if in a contrary-to-fact protasis. Therefore, ‘What if I was manly man?’ is properly expressed as, ‘What if I were a manly man.’

Ahem.

What if I could choose between flight and invisibility as super powers?

What if I could go back in time and take the blue pill?

What if I were not left-handed?

What if you found out an asteroid was going to hit the earth in eight hours?