Saturday, March 19, 2011

Song - 'One of us' by Joan Osborne - exercise with Second Conditional

I've already talked about this song in another post, but I thought that perhaps it deserved its own post with a full exercise.

One of Us - Joan Osborne

Most of the gapped verbs need to be put into Second Conditional forms. Sometimes you only need to enter would, at other times the full verb, making sure that any pronouns are in the correct place. Do this exercise before you listen.
you want   ·   you ask   ·   you call   ·   believe
mean   ·   have to   ·   have (x3)   ·   be faced
Verse 1
1 If God a name what it be?  
And it to his face?
If you with Him in all His glory
What if you just one question?  
5 And yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
10 Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin' to make his way home?
Verse 2
If God a face what it look like?  
And to see if seeing  
That you have to in things like heaven  
15 And in Jesus and the saints, and all the prophets?
Chorus repeats
Back up to heaven all alone
No, nobody calling on the phone
No, just tryin' to make his way home
Nobody calling on the phone
20 'Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome
Chorus repeats

Grammar note

This song has been stupidly criticised on the Internet, not for religious reasons, but because of this line:
What if God was one of us?
And what is wrong with it, you ask. From my point of view (and that of all the TEFL course books I've come across) absolutely nothing, but for some it commits the heinous crime of using indicative 'was' instead of the subjunctive 'were'. In the UK at least, 'was' is perfectly acceptable in informal usage.
And if the line that follows - Just a slob like one of us - isn't informal, God knows what is. Anyway, why on earth should it be considered necessary for popular songs to use formal language? Just the opposite I would have thought. I do think this hang-up with were is largely confined to a certain type of self-righteous think-they-know-it-all adolescent, mainly American. Prescriptivist grammar (some would say all grammar!) largely disappeared from British schools in the 1960s.
According to the Bad Linguistics blog all three contenders for the job of Prime Minister of the UK in the 2010 elections said 'if I was your PM in three weeks' time, and not 'if I were your PM in three weeks time'. So we're in good company. Maybe. Here is my idea of how these two forms fit into the different registers
If I were / If he were
If I was / If he was

Answers to exercise - click and return to the exercise