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How to use Were to

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Were to' in the present 'if... were to + verb'

'Were to' is used in the present to place emphasis on the improbability of the condition. It shows that something is highly unlikely or unthinkable. This form is used in the 'if-clause'.

If he were to be my boss, I think I would quit the next day.
If I were to have no friends, I would be terribly lonely.
If she were to be right about that, we’d never hear the end of it.

'Were to' in the future 'If...were to + verb...'

'Were to' can be used in the future to emphasise that the conditional form is highly unlikely or unthinkable. Here too 'were to' is used in the 'if-clause'.

If Peter were to decide to go to America to study, Sarah would be devastated.
If he were to fail the exam, he'd have to wait a whole year to try again.
If Tess were to show up at the party tomorrow, Alison would not be very amused.

'Were to' in the future 'If...were to have + past participle'

'Were to' in the past has the same function as in the present and the future. It emphasises a truly unthinkable conditional form. It is only used in the ‘if-clause’.

If the bus were to have gone over the railings, all the passengers would have drowned.
If he were to have failed his test, he would have been devastated.
If you were to have gone to Florida, you would have been there when the hurricane hit.

Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school

Now complete the following by choosing the correct form:

  • 1. He loves his job. If he _ his job, he would be really upset.




  • 2. If she _ anymore arrogant, I doubt anyone would bother to even speak to her.




  • 3. If you _ out during that storm, you could have been in serious danger.



  • 4. There is no way I’m working with Tess. If she _ the job, I will quit.




  • 5. If the park _ torn down and turned into new real estate, there would have been riots in the city.




  • 6. If you _ in another city, which would it be?