“If It Were Possible” or “If It Was Possible”?

“If It Was Possible” is grammatically correct, and it’s safe to day no one would argue it. But how about “If It Were Possible”? Is it correct or incorrect? If it’s correct, when should we use it? If it’s incorrect, then why do we sometimes see it thrown around?

“If It Were Possible” or “If It Was Possible”?

The truth is both “If It Were Possible” and “Is It Was Possible” are correct. The form “It Were” is acceptable in conditional sentences, as an exception to the general rule. It may not be as common as “If It Was Possible”, but it’s definitely not wrong.

If It Were Possible or If It Was Possible

Let’s look at some examples of how those two expressions would work in a sentence:

  • If it was possible to skip this class, would you?
  • If it were possible to skip this class, would you?
  • If it were possible, it’d be a dream come true.
  • If it was possible, it’d be a dream come true.

In both sets of examples, the sentences work well with both “If It Were Possible” and “If It Was Possible”. Let’s try to understand the reason why both forms are acceptable in those sentences.

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If It Were Possible

“If It Were Possible” can be used in conditional clauses that refer to hypothetical impossibles. Simply put, you can use “If It Were Possible” to make a statement about something you wish were true, but it is quite hard to happen.

In other words, you shouldn’t use the form “It Were” to address situations that actually happened in the past – for those, the standard form is expected: “I was”, “it was”, etc. The expression “If It Were Possible” has a very specific use.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  1. If it were possible for you to accomplish your wildest dream, what would that be?
  2. If it were possible, I’d want my superpower to be flight.
  3. If it were possible to change my career, I’d have done it by now.
  4. If it were possible to talk to your younger self, what would you say?
  5. If it were possible to visit any place in the world, where would you go?

“If It Were Possible” has a quite strict use, and you should pay attention to it, if you choose to use it.

Also, keep in mind the classic form “If It Was Possible” would also work with each of those sentences. If you’re not sure (or not comfortable) with “If It Were Possible”, you can avoid it by simply using the classic form – which you’re certainly already familiar with.

If It Was Possible

“If It Was Possible” is the classic form we’re all used to. It’s a simple past passive that sounds natural and organic to most people.

Let’s look at some examples of that classic form in use:

  1. If it was possible for you to move to New York, why didn’t you?
  2. If it was possible for you to go to your dream school, would you leave home and go?
  3. If you think  it was possible to stop him from doing that, why didn’t you?
  4. If it was possible for you to travel to any place in the world, where would you go?
  5. If it was possible for you to reconnect with an old friend, who would that be?

“If It Was Possible” doesn’t have the same limitations as “If It Were Possible”. You can use it for conditional clauses and hypotheticals. But you also use it to address the real past, with things that actually happened – or could realistically have happened, but didn’t.

Which Is Used the Most?

Those expressions aren’t exactly the easiest. Which one do you think is used most frequently: “If It Were Possible” or “If It Was Possible”? The graph from Google Ngram Viewer below will show us which form is more common.

If It Were Possible or If It Was Possible usage

Surprisingly to those who think “If It Were Possible” is too difficult to use, this form is used much more often than “If It Was Possible”. Why do you think this is the case?

Final Thoughts

“If It Were Possible” and “If It Was Possible” are both expressions that are grammatically correct and can be used in your daily communications. Keep in mind that “If It Were Possible” should be used exclusively for conditional sentences that do not reflect reality.