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Old 11-06-2012, 03:32 PM   #1
VydorScope
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Is this a proper expression?

So in a dialog between two characters the one says something like "Yeah, we have this bad problem" and the other guy says:

If that were only the case, I would be overjoyed.

Meaning "If that was the problem, things would be easy, but it is not."

My wife has not heard that expression before so I am wondering if I dreamed it or not.

Last edited by Dr. Drib; 11-07-2012 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 11-07-2012, 01:43 AM   #2
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Sounds good to me. Says a bit about the character too - without knowing anything else about him/her, I would expect him to be rather older than average, perhaps an academic or a professional, male (for some reason - why is that?).

Last edited by MartinC; 11-08-2012 at 01:30 AM. Reason: the joke went away
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Old 11-07-2012, 02:20 AM   #3
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Elegant use of the subjunctive mood. Very correct, but likely to be used in speech only by a well-educated type.
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Old 11-07-2012, 02:34 AM   #4
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Yes, it is an accepted expression in some parts of the United States, particularly among older generations. Not noted as being used or recognized by millenials and younger.
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Old 11-07-2012, 02:36 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pulpmeister View Post
Elegant use of the subjunctive mood. Very correct, but likely to be used in speech only by a well-educated type.
I agree with this comment.
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Old 11-07-2012, 03:27 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
So in a dialog between two characters the one says something like "Yeah, we have this bad problem" and the other guy says:

If that were only the case, I would be overjoyed.

Meaning "If that was the problem, things would be easy, but it is not."

My wife has not heard that expression before so I am wondering if I dreamed it or not.
Absolutely correct. It's the subjunctive mood, which is used to express a hypothetical or wished-for situation. Here it's correct because the implication is "that's actually NOT the problem". Using "was" rather than "were" would be poor grammar. Of course, since this is dialogue, you may simply decide that "was" is OK, because almost nobody speaks using grammatically correct English. In a non-dialogue passage, though, it would just be plain wrong not to use the subjunctive.
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Old 11-07-2012, 06:25 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pulpmeister View Post
Elegant use of the subjunctive mood. Very correct, but likely to be used in speech only by a well-educated type.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MartinC View Post
Sounds good to me. Says a bit about the character too - without knowing anything else about him/her, I would expect him to be rather older than average, perhaps an academic or a professional, male (for some reason - why is that?).
Cool. Those both fit him pretty well. He is not that much older but comes from an older more refined family. Oh, and he started and runs an university.
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Old 11-07-2012, 01:00 PM   #8
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A proper "experssion"?

Would you like me to fix that one for you?



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Old 11-07-2012, 01:40 PM   #9
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LOL oh I see expERSsion instead of expression in the subject. Y'all are funny. I probably have a dozen+ typos in most threads, but every now and again you latch on to one and have fun.

Sure, Dr. Drib. Go for it.
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Old 11-07-2012, 05:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
LOL oh I see expERSsion instead of expression in the subject. Y'all are funny. I probably have a dozen+ typos in most threads, but every now and again you latch on to one and have fun.

Sure, Dr. Drib. Go for it.

You made my day!


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Old 11-08-2012, 04:55 AM   #11
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I didn't think the original question was addressing the grammar of the expression but rather whether it was an accepted speechism, something that a reader would recognize rather than balk at. I guess what threw me, since everyone else seems to think the question was a grammar question, was the use of "expression". Expression implies to me a saying, a quote, a regionalism, a colloquialism -- that is, not a question of grammar.

What made the rest of you see it as a grammar question?
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Old 11-08-2012, 05:15 AM   #12
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The grammar (the fact that it's a subjunctive) provides the explanation as to why the usage is a valid one.
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Old 11-15-2012, 04:47 AM   #13
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I have in fact heard the subjunctive used correctly in speech. (It's rare though; only those well-educated in the more obscure corners of English Grammar use it.) The speaker in question was just such a well-educated person. The same speaker used the phrase "...ought we to do ...?", another rarely used form.
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Old 11-15-2012, 05:33 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
So in a dialog between two characters the one says something like "Yeah, we have this bad problem" and the other guy says:

If that were only the case, I would be overjoyed.

Meaning "If that was the problem, things would be easy, but it is not."

My wife has not heard that expression before so I am wondering if I dreamed it or not.
The 'only' seems a bit odd to my ear. I would go for
If that were the case, I would be overjoyed.
or
If only that were the case!
(where the joy is implied)
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Old 11-22-2012, 06:59 PM   #15
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Agreed. The placement of "only" is wrong, and implies that somehow that is more than the case. As in, it is not only the case, but also the object inside of the case....
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