If She Was or If She Were? Which is Correct?

“If she was” and “if she were” are both correct, but in different contexts. “If she was” is used to refer to things that actually happened, while “if she were” is used to refer to things that may happen. Though they may have once been totally interchangeable, they’ve developed their own meanings.

Let’s explore the differences between the two to clear up when and how to use each one, and whether you can swap them out in a sentence.

“If she were” and the Subjunctive Mood

The phrase “if she were” is part of a very small subset of English grammatical tense called the subjunctive mood. This tense is used to talk about situations or things that are hypothetical, or that haven’t or couldn’t happen but are being considered from an academic perspective. For instance:

If she were queen of the world, she’d give everyone one million dollars.

If she were a cat, she’d get to laze around all day.

This version of the phrase is often used to put the speaker in the shoes of someone or something else or to explain an option they are considering taking.

“If she was” and the Plausible Past

On the other hand, when referring to something that may have actually happened, you would use “if she was.” There’s no official grammatical term for this context, but a good way to think of it is as the plausible past. For example:

If she was ever late to work, they would write her up.

If she was rude to you, I’m sorry.

This version of the phrase is used when talking about a real situation without giving a specific instance (such as in the first example) or in a case where it’s unclear whether the past action or situation actually occurred (such as in the second or third examples).

Are “if she were” and “if she was” Interchangeable?

There are a few arguments for the interchangeable use of “if she were” and “if she was.” They’re used fairly interchangeably in popular media, especially in music.

Let’s look at an example from earlier:

If she was rude to you, I’m sorry.

If she were rude to you, I would be sorry.

In the first version of the sentence, the speaker is accepting the possibility that they may have been rude and actively apologizing. In the second version, they are saying what may happen in a hypothetical situation in which they were rude.

“If she was” is used for taking direct responsibility in an unclear situation, while “if she were” is used to illustrate a situation that has not happened at all. In cases like this, the phrases are most definitely not interchangeable.


The grammatical mood is an obscure part of the English language to try and learn, especially because it isn’t as commonly taught as the common tenses. Understanding how and when to use “if she were” versus “if she was” can make your writing clearer, more concise, and more understandable.

As long as you remember the context of your sentence – is this something that could have really happened, or a hypothetical situation? – then you’ll be sure to use the right phrase, every time.