The Grammarphobia Blog

“I Wish I Were Blind”

Q: Could you tell me if Bruce Springsteen’s song “I Wish I Were Blind” should actually be “I Wish I Was Blind”?

A: No, the Boss is right. “I Wish I Were Blind” is correct.

The reason is that when you express a wish, or when you use an “if” statement (“If I were blind…”) to talk about a condition contrary to fact, you use the subjunctive mood instead of the indicative. So you’d say, “Last year I WAS in Maine” (indicative), but “Now I wish I WERE in Maine” (subjunctive) and “If I WERE in Maine I wouldn’t be here.” That’s why we say things like “If I were king…” or “If only she were here…” or “I wish he were nicer to his parents,” and so on. In the subjunctive mood, “was” becomes “were.”

You should have more faith in Bruce.