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Reply to "Why Use Subjunctive Were Here?"

Hi. Thank you, David.

David, Moderator posted:
zuotengdazuo posted:

I clambered out upon the sill, but I hesitated to jump until I should have heard what passed between my savior and the ruffian who pursued me. If she were ill-used, then at any risks I was determined to go back to her assistance.   [. . .]

Doyle, Arthur Conan [. . .]

Could you please explain why subjunctive “were” is used here? I don’t think it indicates something counterfactual.

It is as though the speaker is saying that he thought at the time that he would go back to her assistance if she were ill-used: "If she were ill-used, I would go back to her assistance." He conceives of her being ill-used by his pursuer as unlikely.

Compare: "I thought at the time, 'If she should be ill-used, I would go back.'"

But the narrator hadn’t yet heard anything that would happen between the pursuer and the woman, so how could he have known her being ill-used by the pursuer was unlikely?

Last edited by zuotengdazuo