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Giving Advice Using 'If I Were You'

Hello everybody!

Today we are going to look at ways we can give advice, specifically using the phrase If i were you…. 

Giving advice can be expressed in many different forms. Here are some of the ways in which we frequently offer advice: 

ShouldYou don’t look very well, you should go to the doctor  – Considered the correct thing to do

Had BetterYou haven’t been well lately, you’d better go to the doctor – Considered stronger than ‘should’ but weaker than ‘have to’. Should someone not take this advice, there may be negative consequences!

Must or Have toYou have to go to the doctor. You look awful – Considered the strongest and most emphatic advice.

I advise/would adviseI would advise that you go to the doctor. – Advice being given or offered in a formal manner. 

Why don’t you?Why don’t you go to the doctor? You don’t look too good”. – Advice being given as a suggestion. 

And finally….

If I were you..If I were you i’d go to the doctor – This is advice given in the 2nd conditional or the subjunctive mood

It is this final form that we are going to look at in detail on today’s post.

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...So how to use it!

If I were you… is used when giving advice to another person if you were in the same, or a similar position to that person. You imagine yourself in their position or situation and how you would react or what you would do. For example:

  • If I were you, I would study more.
  • If I were you, I’d tell the truth.
  • If I were you, I’d learn English with Teachify! 


So why do we use if i were you rather then if i was you?

The reason that we use were instead of was is because we use the sentence in what is known as the subjunctive mood. We use the subjunctive mood for hypothetical situations, that is a possible situation, statement or question about something imaginary rather then something real. The subjunctive mood is used to explore conditions that are contrary (opposite) to the fact:

If I were Prime Minister I wouldn’t put up with this nonsense!. The fact is, I am NOT the Prime Minister. 

In the subjunctive mood we use  If + I/He/She/It + WERE for the verb to be 

  • Wf he were quicker he’d have made the Athletics team (but he is not quicker so he did not make the team).

We can also change the order of the sentence:

  • I’d learn with Teachify if I were you. 
  • I’d support Real Betis if I were you.

The Rolling Stones have a song that features the line “If I was a woman…” 

Sorry,Sir Mick (Jagger) and his loyal fans all over the globe, but this is grammatically incorrect.

It should be If I WERE a woman. This is because he is talking about a hypothetical situation of him being a woman. 

It is not real, it is just a situation in which an individual is imagining being a woman, so we would need to use the Subjunctive Mood here.

However, we can all hail Queen Bey (that’s Beyonce for the musically uneducated) as she got it right in her song If I were a boy. 

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