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A phrase following a statement that adds emphasis or suggests an option. For example, in Is this a good movie or what? the phrase asks for confirmation or agreement. However, it also may ask for an alternative, as in Is this book a biography or what? In the 1700s it generally asked for a choice among a series of options, and it still has this function, as in In what does John excel? in imagination? in reasoning powers? in mathematics? or what?

QUIZZES

QUIZ YOURSELF ON "WAS" VS. "WERE"!

Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
Question 1 of 7
“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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