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Was vs. Were: What’s the Difference?

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Was and were are both past tenses of the verb to be . The verb be is a tricky one because it is an irregular verb and one that we find ourselves using with great frequency, so it is that much more important that we choose the correct verb for our sentences.

In this post, I want to go over the grammar behind was vs. were, when it’s correct to use which one, and give you a few tips to keep track of them both. After reading this post, you shouldn’t have any trouble correctly choosing between was or were in your future writing.

Forms of Was and Were

i was or i were grammar

Was is used in the first person singular (I) and the third person singular (he, she, it).

Were is used in the second person singular and plural (you, your, yours) and first and third person plural (we, they).

The forms that was and were will take in your sentence are summarized in the chart below,

Singular = I was, You were, He was, She was, It was

Plural = We were, You were, They were

  • I was driving to the park.
  • You were drinking some water.
  • He was about to eat dinner.
  • She was at the roller rink.
  • It was a great time.
  • We were in the right spot.
  • They were nowhere to be seen.

If I was vs. If I were

While some people get mixed up on what we’ve covered above, most of the confusion with these two words centers on the use of the subjunctive mood and specifically the two phrases if I was vs. if I were . For example, which of the following two choices is correct?

  • If I was a better cook, I could entertain more.
  • If I were a better cook, I could entertain more.

You hear people say both each and every day, so it’s hard to know which is correct. The answer, however, has to do with the subjunctive mood.

Subjunctive Mood

was and were grammar

  • I wish I weren’t so shy.
  • I wish it were warmer outside.
  • If I were taller, I could dunk a basketball.
  • If John were a rich man, he could drive a fancy car.
  • He acts as if he were the one in charge.
  • John spends money as if he were a millionaire.

All of the above sentences use the verb were because they aren’t true; they do not describe reality.

In the first two sentences, I am talking about things I wish would happen.

In the third and fourth sentences, I am talking about situations that would happen if I were taller and if John were rich, speaking hypothetically.

And the fifth and sixth sentences are examples of unreal statements.

When to Use Were

Another good example of the subjunctive mood can be found in the musical Fiddler on the Roof . In the song, “If I were a rich man,” the character Tevye sings about how different his life would be and all the things he would do if he were rich.

If I were a rich man, I’d build a big tall house…

If I were a rich man, I’d have the time that I lack.

If I were a wealthy man, I wouldn’t have to work hard.

In these lines, Tevye is fantasizing about life as a wealthy man. He isn’t rich now; he’s just imagining it, so we need to use the subjective “If I were,” not “If I was.”

The correct answer for the example above, therefore, is, “If I were a better cook, I could entertain more.”

Tricks to Remember

Two good clues for the subjunctive mood are the words if and wish . If you see either of these words, there is a good chance you will need to use the subjunctive.

When to Use Was

Since were is used for statements that do not describe reality, was is just the opposite. Was is used for statements of fact. For example,

  • Last night, I was watching TV until midnight.
  • When I was younger, I wanted to be a singer.
  • Your brother was my college roommate.

These words are used differently in sentences, so it’s important to know when to use were vs. was.

Was is used in the first and third person singular past. It is used for statements of fact.

Were is used in the second person singular and plural and first and third person plural. It is used in the subjunctive mood to indicate unreal or hypothetical statements. The words if and wish usually indicate the subjunctive mood.

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Was vs. Were – Usage, Examples and Worksheet

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| Danielle McLeod

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

If you sometimes struggle knowing when to use was and were, you aren’t alone. Many people are confused as to when to use the verb was and when to use the verb were . But the rules for using these terms are clear when you know what to look for.

Were and was are past tenses of the irregular verb to be . The verb to be is an irregular verb, which is a verb that does not follow any pattern or rules in its conjugation.

The verb to be is probably one of the most commonly used and confusing verbs in the English language. It can be particularly hard to understand whether to use were or was in certain situations if you don’t first determine the point of view the subject of the sentence provides.

What Is the Difference Between Was and Were?

httpsgrammarist.comusagewas vs were

Was and were are past tenses of the verb to be . The subject’s point of view determines whether you use was or were .

First Person Point of View: I, Me, My, Mine, Myself, We, Us, Our, Ours

Second Person Point of View: You, Your, Yours, Yourself

Third Person Point of View: He, Him, himself, She, Her, Hers, Herself, It, They, Them, Their, Theirs, Themselves

Was is the first person singular past tense form of the verb to be .

  • I was walking to the grocery store.

Was is also the third person singular past tense form of the verb to be .

  • She was not friendly when introduced to my sister.

Were is the second person singular and second person plural past tense form of the verb to be .

  • You were heading in the wrong direction.
  • You all were supposed to meet me after school yesterday.

Were is also the first and third person plural past tense form of the verb to be .

  • We were going to the park when you drove by.
  • They were heading to the game after school.

Be serves as an irregular verb and an irregular auxiliary verb. But what does being an irregular or irregular auxiliary verb have to do with it? First, let’s look at how to be is conjugated, so you understand how irregular verbs differ from other verbs.

Conjugating To Be

To be conjugates into five different forms:

He/She/It is

Past simple

He/She/It was

What Is an Irregular Auxiliary Verb?

As you can see above, to be never used -ed in the past tense. Irregular verbs are defined as verbs that don’t use -ed in the past tense.

Irregular verbs rely on the auxiliary verb (or helping verb) to indicate the future, present, or past tense.

The past tense of to be can be used as a verb and as an auxiliary verb. When used as an auxiliary, it is followed by the verb to describe the tense.

For example:

  • She was playing soccer.
  • We were playing basketball.

It can also serve as a verb. For example,

  • She was fifteen years old.
  • They were high school graduates.

When to Use Was in a Sentence

Was is the first person singular past tense form of the verb to be  and the third person singular past tense form of the verb to be .

  • I was home last night.
  • He was in bed at ten o’clock.
  • She was at the restaurant until eleven.
  • It was not a late night.

When to Use Were in a Sentence

Were is the second person singular and plural past tense form of the verb to be  and the first and third person plural past tense form of the verb to be .

  • We were going to the beach.
  • You were home last night.
  • The boys were in bed by ten o’clock.
  • They were asleep by eleven.

There Were or There Was?

httpsgrammarist.comusagewas vs were 1

The use of were vs. was can get a little murky in a few situations. The first situation is when using the phrases there were or there was .

To use these terms correctly, you must identify the subject of the sentence and ensure the subject and verb are in agreement. Ensuring that a subject and verb are in agreement means making sure that they are either both plural or singular.

A good rule to remember is when a sentence begins with there, the subject is found after the verb. Once the subject has been identified, use the following rules:

  • Use was if the subject is singular.
  • Use were if the subject is plural.

Remember this rule when trying to decide whether to use was, were, or some other form of the verb to be .

  • There was a dog on the road. (The subject is “dog,” a singular noun.)
  • There were three people trying to lure the dog away from the road. (The subject is “people,” a plural noun.)

Hypothetical Situations

Using the word if or wish is a reliable indicator of using the subjective mood.

A subjunctive mood expresses a hypothetical situation that has not come to pass but might come to pass. It may be conditional, or it may simply be imaginary.

Subjunctive moods are almost always expressed using an if or I wish phrase.

A subjunctive mood always uses the past tense verb were . The verb were is the correct choice, regardless of whether the subject is singular or plural, when speaking of a conditional or hypothetical situation.

  • If I were to ask her out, it’s possible she might tell me no.
  • I wish I were there instead of sitting in class.

Using the word if is a reliable indicator of using subjective mood. Now you know that when faced with a choice between the phrases if I were or if I was , the phrase if I were is always correct.

Let’s Review

First Person Singular = Was

Third Person Singular = Was

Second Person Singular = Were

First Person Plural = Were

Second Person Plural = Were

Third Person Plural = Were

If the sentence is a hypothetical statement, always use were no matter whether the subject is singular or plural.

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“Was” vs. “Were”: Use Cases And Examples

There are plenty of questions associated with the verb to be . “To be or not to be,” for one. On a less existential note, there’s the question of how to use to be in the grammatically correct way. I am, you are, he was, they were —the forms of the verb to be , among many other things, are messy in English.

You might find yourself puzzling out a sentence such as: If she was unhappy, she should have said so . Is this sentence correct? Or should If she was switch to the phrase If she were ?

Was vs. were, what’s the difference?

Much of the confusion lies in when to use was versus were, which are the past tense forms of to be . The answer all depends on two factors: 1) is your verb using first, second, or third person? And, 2) is your verb in past indicative or past subjunctive tense? Past indicative is used for ordinary objective statements or questions, and past subjunctive is used for imaginary or hypothetical statements or questions.

Were is always correct in the past subjunctive:

  • He/she/it were

If this looks a little odd, remember that these constructions are often accompanied by a word like if , as if , and  though . You might say, “If I were a rich man …”

Don’t we all wish we were rich … so would you say “wish I was” or “wish I were”?

To conjugate to be in the past indicative, however, using was or were depends on the subject:

  • He/she/it was

It’s possible to get mixed up even with this straight conjugation in mind. But there are some tips and tricks to remember to make sure you use the correct verb form every time.

When to use was

Was is a past tense indicative form of be , meaning “to exist or live,” and is used in the first person singular (I) and the third person singular (he/she/it).

You use the past indicative when you’re talking about reality and known facts. If you went to the store, for example, then you would say, “I was at the store” because it is something that definitely happened. The same is true if you’re talking about someone else in the third person (or if you make the choice to talk about yourself in the third person). You would say, “Sarah was at the store,” for example, or “She was at the store.”

Another way to use was is as an auxiliary verb with a singular subject in the past continuous tense. An auxiliary verb is used with another verb that follows it in the sentence to express different tenses, aspects, moods, etc., and the past continuous tense refers to something that was ongoing in the past.

If you were to modify the previous example ( I was at the store ) with an auxiliary verb, you would say, “I was searching for spices at the store.” Was is the auxiliary verb (or helping verb) used to talk about what you were doing in the past ( searching ).

Examples of was in a sentence

So to recap, if you’re talking about something real that happened in the past, use the past tense indicative: I was or he/she/it was . ( Were is used with the other pronouns.) Here are some example sentences:

  • I was sick last night.
  • He had an amazing imagination when he was a child.
  • We turned down the music because it was too loud.

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When to use were

Whereas was is the singular past tense of to be , were is used for both the third person plural past tense (they and we) and the second person past tense (you).

In the past indicative, were acts similar to was. “They were at the store,” you could say, for example. It also acts similar as an auxiliary verb, as in “They were searching for spices at the store.”

Things get a little more complicated with were , though, and it’s all thanks to this thing called the subjunctive mood.

The subjunctive mood is the opposite of indicative, and it’s all about things that are unreal or conditional. When you’re talking about your hopes and dreams, you’re using the subjunctive mood. The same goes for talking about something you intend or want to do, as well as for things you know will never be true or are no longer true.

A telltale sign that you’re working with the subjunctive mood is the word if , because this suggests a hypothetical. “If I were to go shopping, I could search for spices,” for example. It doesn’t matter if the subject is singular or plural, or if it’s first, second, or third person. If you’re using the subjunctive mood, the grammatically correct past tense of to be is were.

Speech is always evolving, and the subjunctive mood is used far less extensively than it was in the past. And what’s more, much of the way we talk and write in everyday English isn’t what our old schoolteachers would wag the ruler at us as “grammatically correct.” But if you want to conform with those standards, use were when it comes to the past tense of to be.

Examples of were in a sentence

If you’re discussing things that are unreal or conditional, then use were : I were and he/she/it were . Here are some example sentences:

  • If I were in better shape, I would run in the race.
  • She took over the meeting as if she were the boss.
  • His father talked to him as though he were a child.

When to use was vs. were

To sum it all up, always use was for the past indicative first and third person singular. That goes for whether it’s a simple verb or auxiliary. “I was ready to watch the Auburn Tigers win the game,” and “He was watching number two score the winning touchdown.”

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For the past indicative second person and all plural forms, use were. “They were in the stadium,” and “You were standing the whole game.” Also use were for the hypothetical or fantastical subjunctive mood for both singular and plural forms, as in “If they were to bring back popcorn, I would eat it.”

There was vs. there were

Was and were are also used in some instances with the pronoun there . This pronoun introduces a sentence or clause in which the verb comes before its subject (or those instances where the verb has no complement). When the subject that follows is singular, use was : When I opened the fridge, I found there was no more milk left. When the subject that follows is plural, use were: When I opened the fridge, I found there were no more eggs left.

In the end, yes, you were technically correct when you noted that the class lyric “I wish I was a little bit taller” should have been “I wish I were a little bit taller.” But don’t fret if you get it technically wrong at times. Were may be formally correct, but because the subjunctive mood has largely fallen out of common use, was may slip into yours and others’ speech at times.

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When to use ‘was’ versus ‘were’

was versus were

There are several reasons why you might be struggling to decide whether you should be using “was” or “were” in a sentence. The simplest of these is the conjugation of the singular and plural forms of the past tense of “to be.” While this can cause minor problems to those learning English as a second language as they study, first language English speakers usually have few problems with this. The most common cause of debate and confusion is the use of “were” instead of “was” in the subjunctive mood (We’ll explain that below if you aren’t sure what subjunctive mood is.). We’ll cover both past and subjunctive mood topics in this article, and you’ll soon see just how simple it all is.

Singular and Plural

As we’ve observed, this is the easiest of the choices you need to make, but it also gives rise to the problems that so many people have when they begin to use the subjunctive mood.

Singular: I was, he was, she was, it was – BUT you were. (Just to make things more fun!)

Plural: It’s always ‘were’, regardless of whether we’re talking about “they,” “we” or “you.” So far, so easy! But now we’ll examine how this relates to one of the most common errors in spoken or written English: the choice of “was” instead of “were” in the subjunctive mood.

If I were / was a rich man – the famous subjunctive mood

The subjunctive mood is used to describe or speculate on a hypothetical situation, and you’ll hear people using both ‘”was” and “were” in this context. But only one of these is correct. Whenever we’re talking about something that isn’t a reality at the moment, we discard “was” and choose “were” instead. It doesn’t matter whether we are referring to a single person or a group of people. As soon as we cross the border between reality and speculation, “were” is the only word to choose. For example

  • I was rich and I owned a house at the seaside.
  • If I were rich, I would have owned a house at the seaside.
  • He was the captain of the team and he chose a different strategy.
  • If he were captain of the team, he would have chosen a different strategy.

In each of the pairs of sentences above, the first one refers to something that actually happened in the past, and the word “was” is the correct choice. The second sentence is a wish or a speculation – it refers to an event that did not actually happen, and “were” is the correct choice.

  • They were the winning team, so they celebrated their victory.
  • If they were the winning team, they would celebrate their victory.

As we can see, the subjunctive mood doesn’t result in any change in word choice in this example. No matter how many people you are referring to, the subjunctive mood calls for the word “were.” If you’ve been prone to saying the incorrect “I wish I was,” “If he was” or “I wish she was” instead of the correct ‘I wish I were,” “If he were” or “I wish she were,” it will be easy to make the necessary adaptation and correct your grammar.

Look out for the subjunctive mood. As soon as something is a wish or a hypothetical (if) situation, you will always choose “were” over “was.”

It’s a common grammar mistake. In spoken as well as written English, you’ll find that just about everyone from plumbers to presidents is guilty of this mistake. Of course, when presidents make this error, those who know better will laugh at them, so if you’re hoping that what you say will be taken seriously, it’s worth learning when to use “were” instead of “was.” After all, once you understand the basic rules, it’s quite easy.

I understand it, but it still sounds wrong to me to use “were” with I and he and she.

“If she was home, I’d go and play” sounds much better than “If she were home, I’d go play with her, but the latter is supposedly correct.

This sure helps a lot to understand the difference even though it still sounds a bit wrong when saying it out loud. At least now I know how to use it correctly. At least I think I do enough to finally get some sleep…

It is easy for me to understand why this would be confusing to a large number of people. I really don’t know the rules well, so I always play it by ear. If it sounds correct, then I’m usually right. I couldn’t decide whether to use “was” or “were” and that’s how I ended up at this article. It can get a bit confusing, but I understand the correct way to use both now. Thank you.

Glad to hear the article could help you understand a bit better. That’s exactly what I hoped it would do. Good luck with all your writing!

Thank you for this simple explanation between the difference of was and were. This was exactly what I was searching for when I type my question into the search engine. I think I have a better understanding of when to use the word “was” and when to use the word “were” now that I’ve read this.

I’m happy to the article was able to help you understand the difference a bit better. Hopefully you can use the two words correctly in the future and it will soon become habit knowing which to use.

Does it really matter? If a person understands what you mean to say, who cares if you use was or were? People are far too uptight about grammar and shouldn’t care as long as everyone understands. This is a big overreaction to make something more complicated than it should be — the only people who care are teachers so they can keep their jobs.

It does matter, In fact, it matters a lot. I can write, “I enjy brekfast evryday” which you can probably figure out what I mean to say, but it looks terrible. There really is no difference when using “was” and “were” incorrectly. You really should care about grammar for exactly this reason.

This seems like a lazy excuse not to use proper grammar or not wanting to study for an English test. The truth is, you will be judged by how you speak and write. Knowing the correct way to use verbs like was and were is important for this reason.

I can’t believe someone actually said that.

I was going to go out tonight to have a lot of fun. If I were to go out tonight, I think I would have a lot of fun.

I don’t understand why in these two sentences I use “was” for one of them and “were” for the other when they are both basically saying the exact same thing. Can someone explain this to me so it makes sense?

Those two sentences have completely different meanings and are dramatically different from one another. You can’t really compare the two. Do you understand which one of the following two is correct?

If I were to go out tonight, I think I would have a lot of fun. If I was to go out tonight, I think I would have a lot of fun.

That would be a better comparison of whether or not you understand the difference of when to use “was” or “were”

This is a great way to explain the two words. was and were are difficult. So many get it wrong I know because I am one of them. This helped a lot thank you for the post and also for the great explanation.

You can seriously find an article on anything on the Internet. I mean, who would ever search for something like this? I’m scared just thinking about how I ended up here to read this…

English is a confusing language. If you grew up speaking English you probably wouldn’t understand this, but trying to learn it as a second language is difficult.

I think if you read through the comments, you will see a lot of different people have questions about which of these two to use.

I understand the whole first person etc.., but when it comes to objects, what are the rules. For example: The man said the set of tires were returned. or is it, The man said the set of tires was returned. Is it was because it’s a set or is it were because they’re tires?

It would be:

The man said the set of tires was returned. or The man said the tires were returned.

A set is singular so “was” is appropriate.

Is it safe to say that if the sentence starts with “If I…” then it will always be “were” that comes next and not “was”? I’m just trying to make sure that I understand the difference between these two words correctly so I don’t make any mistakes.

If you are speculating, which you are in a “what if…” sentence, then you use “were” and not “was” Was is used for the past tense. So, yes, you would be correct to use “were” when speculating with “if I…”

Not necessarily. If the “If I…” is because you don’t know the answer, then it’s “was”. As in “If I was late, I’m sorry.” But I don’t actually know that I was late. Use “were” when the “If I …” sentence could correctly followed up with “but I wasn’t”. “If I were late, I’d be sorry.” But I wasn’t.

Timing and transportation was everything… or Timing and transportation were everything… Editor says was and the writer says ‘were.’ Please help!

This s the sentence in its entirety I think it’s ‘were’ please let me know. Thanks- Judy Doing these mandatory chores affected whether or not I would be on time for school; timing and transportation was everything.

I would say “was” because the “timing and transportation” where you are thinking the plural comes from is actually a singular issue of being on time for school.

I’m very unsatisfied with some practical, basic functional conflicts and ambiguity of English, likely the only language I will ever know. I dream we could do dramatically better if we ‘started over’ Idk. In this case maybe something to do with clear singular or plural state of last subject in the series?? I can only guess that. Cake and cookies were everywhere. Cookies and cake was everywhere. ?? Cookies, cake, and pretzels were everywhere. Cookies, pretzel, and cake was everywhere. ?? And BTW I hate that its: You were there. He was there. stuff that! Also HATE that it’s ”Someone was shooting at me, THEY WERE crazy…. And the even more objectionable…. What is wrong with that person? THEY don’t have THEIR priorities strait. Talk about your schizophrenic pronouns.

A psychological report on the impact of the incident and its consequences on his life was/were requested?

“was”

The psychological report is singular.

The time and day weren’t obvious or the time and day wasn’t obvious. Which one is correct?

This depends on how you are reading it. If you are assuming “time and day” as a singular event, then it is wasn’t, but if you are assuming time and day as separate pieces of information being given, then it’s weren’t. It depends on the context of the sentence.

boom! i cant think of a better way to explain what this article just explained! wonderful!

such a great review I found it clear and concise

Why does this all have to be so confusing and hard? Why can’t English be easy like other languages?

I would disagree that other languages are easy. There are some other languages that are much more difficult than English. That’s not to say that English isn’t difficult and there are points which are confusing such as the difference of was and were in certain situations, but other languages can have situations that are even more difficult and confusing. It comes with every language. There are always going to be some aspects of it that will be confusing and will take time to learn.

English, unlike most other languages, is derived from great number of languages – Latin, Greek, French, German, Scandinavian languages, Celtic languages.

It is that mish-mash that has led to entirely different rules grammar than other languages have and to the wonderfully multiple spellings and meanings for words that sound the same such as “to,” “too,” and “two”; “lead” (two meanings) and “led”; and that wonderful catch all word of “fuck” which can be used as a verb, noun, adverb, adjective and God knows what and has so many different meanings, one wonders why it is even considered a “curse” word.

Wonderful advice.

I saw this article on were vs we’re which was interesting which seems to be similar to this one.

Thank you for this, I have been marked down for not proof reading my work emails due to this silly error.

This makes more sense to me now as I have not needed to use the two words for years since school

It was great knowing the differences between these two giants word.

but, those grandchildren was or were his pride and joy. The granddaddy has passed away, so which is correct, was or were?

The word were, because the sentence those grandchildren is plural not singular!

“everyone from plumbers to presidents is guilty of this mistake” shouldn’t that be “are” guilty?

Subject “everyone” is singular so helping verb “is” is used and not “are”.

Well said Bob, “everyone” might be singular, but “plumbers and presidents” are not. To use “is” in this sentence is just so wrong!

Jim, “plumbers and presidents” are within a prepositional phrase and are the objects of the preposition “from”. Everyone is the singular subject of the sentence. Therefore, it must be “is”.

Your explanation between the words was and were, it’s clear, now I know that I will be more conscience when to use it a properly.thank you!

I know it’s an old post but the problem seems to always be fresh… In the sentence: “A selection of panels was checked.” – is the verb used correctly. Was or were? I keep writing “was”, as selection is singular but it keeps being corrected to “were” as it relates to panels – plural. Which version is correct, please?

“A selection of panels was checked” is correct. Like you said, selection is singular, and since that is the subject of the sentence, that is what needs to match up with the verb. “Of panels” is just a prepositional phrase, but since panels is a noun and it’s right before the verb it can sometimes throw people (and computers!) off.

“Apparently sunshine, outdoor activities and simple home-cooked meals was a good change for his son.”

The above sentence looks so wrong to me, but I can’t find an answer on if it’s right or wrong.

What if we were referring to an item or any not living object? i.e. “Her lips (was/were) trembling.”

Sentence is in present tense and is not conditional, plus ‘lips’ is plural – hence ‘were’. But ‘If here lips . . .’ requires the word ‘were’, on account of the ‘if’: it’s a conditional statement.

Sometimes I think that the usage of these two words needs to be redefined. Simply use ‘was’ for singular and ‘were’ for plural.

So how about this question asking about a fact and not a hypothetical item? Which is correct? If there was/were a way to train harder and recover faster … would you want to know about it?

If we are talking about a collection of singular nouns should you use was or were? For instance The car, lorry and bus was causing congestion in the road v The car, lorry and bus were causing congestion in the road I am thinking ‘were’ is correct because I am saying They caused congestion…….

It would be were. I’m not an expert, but if you are talking about several objects or people (the car, lorry, and bus in your example), you should use were.

The strength and courage you showed was/were admirable. Which is right? Thanks.

it’s very good explanation thank you

Ho I write Mia and Marco was open for discussion or were open for discussion

Nice very helpful ☺️💖

Time and volume were considered as the sub-plots or Time and volume was considered as the sub-plots, which is correct? and why ?

What is correct my bosses’ were here or my bosses’ was here

My sisters were in the room. Plural ‘sisters’. Singular ‘brother’ was in the room. You seem quite right to question how the ‘were’ (speculation) ‘was’ (reality) rules apply in your bosses’ instance.

Were there actions necessary? Were their actions necessary? Was there actions necessary? Was their actions necessary?

Were there actions necessary? Correct? Thank you for your help with this.

That is so clear an explanation. If I were (speculation) foreign I would easily reason the difference than if I was (reality) native English. Makes sense, were (speculation) it not that I was (reality) testing irony.

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How to Use “Was” vs. “Were” Correctly – Example Sentences

Learning English can be tricky, especially when it comes to choosing between “was” and “were.” Don’t worry; we’re here to make it easy for you! In this guide, we’ll explore how to use “were” and “was” correctly in simple words, with plenty of examples to help you understand.

Understanding “Was” and “Were”:

Was and were are the past tense of the verb “to be“.

“Was”: Imagine you’re talking about just one person or thing (singular) – maybe yourself, someone else, or even an animal. That’s when “was” steps in. For example, “I was happy yesterday,” or “The cat was sleeping.”

your homework was or were

Check Also: 20+ Example Sentences in the Past Progressive Tense 12 Tenses in English Grammar with Examples (PDF) 1000+ Common Daily English Phrases for Beginners (PDF)

Example sentences with WAS

The sun was shining brightly in the sky. My favorite toy was missing from the shelf. Yesterday, she was playing in the park. The cat was sleeping on the cozy blanket. It was raining heavily during the storm. The teacher was explaining a new lesson. The delicious smell of pizza was in the air. He was wearing a blue shirt to the party. The baby was giggling in the crib. The movie was interesting and funny.

Example sentences with Were:

The birds were singing in the trees. We were planting flowers in the garden. They were building a sandcastle at the beach. The students were listening carefully in class. Our friends were waiting for us at the cafe. The cookies were baking in the oven. The cars were honking in the busy street. We were swimming in the cool lake. The books were neatly stacked on the shelf. The children were laughing and playing together.

If I Was vs. If I Were:

Now, let’s dive into a bit more magical territory – the land of “if.” When you’re dreaming or wishing for something that isn’t real, you use “were” in your sentence.

  • Example 1: “I wish I were a superhero.” (But, hey, I’m not really a superhero.)
  • Example 2: “If I were you, I would eat ice cream every day.” (Guess what? I’m not really you, just imagining it!).
Remember that when we’re talking about things that are real and have happened, such as facts or memories, we should use “was”.

Examples to Make It Clear: Let’s bring was & were into action with some examples:

Example Sentences with WAS and Were

Positive Sentences:

She was a great dancer. We were friends since kindergarten. I was looking for her. They were good friends. I was doing my homework

Negative Sentences:

He was not at the party last night. The flowers were not blooming in winter. I was not looking for you. They were not good friends. I was not doing my homework.

Interrogative Sentences:

Was she at the concert? Were they studying together? Were you looking for me? Were they good friends? Was he doing his homework?

I wish I were a famous actor. If I were a bird, I would fly to the highest mountain.

Just remember, “was” for one person or thing (singular), “were” for more than one (plural), and “were” for those magical ‘if’ moments. Keep practicing, and soon you’ll be using “was” and “were” like a pro!

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The Definitive Guide: When to use Was vs. Were

your homework was or were

Both was and were are correct forms of the verb “ to be .” However, when to use was vs. were depends on whether you’re talking about something imaginary or something real.

Hypothetical situations need the subjunctive mood , so you should use were regardless of the speaker’s point of view . However, situations that actually happened in the past need the indicative mood . This means subject-verb agreement comes into play, so you should use was with I/he/she ( She was here ) but were with you/we/they ( You/we/they were here ).

When to Use Was vs. Were at a Glance :

Should you use was or were ? This is a grammar question that even native English speakers struggle to answer correctly. Let’s look at the easiest way to know the difference between was and were . What’s more, you’ll see was vs. were example sentences and learn how to correctly use this irregular verb .

In this way, the difference between was and were comes down to describing something that actually happened in the past vs. an imaginary situation that never happened at all. Moreover, it also depends on who is speaking. Finally, subject-verb agreement also comes into play.

A man looking confused about was vs were.

3 Easy Steps That Tell you When to use Was vs. Were

1. Ask yourself these questions :

  • Did it really occur in the past?
  • Or, are we talking about an imaginary situation that can’t be real?

2. If it actually occurred in the past:

Use was with the first and third person singular points of view:

But , use were with the second person (you) or third person (they) plural points of view. This helps ensure correct subject-verb agreement.

3. If the situation is imaginary and can’t be real:

Were is the only correct option. As such, use were for every point of view.

Why Second Conditional Uses Were?

A second conditional, or type 2 conditional sentence, describes hypothetical or imaginary situations, like dreams and wishes. In some instances, those situations could happen in the future, but they most likely won’t.

Below is the structure for a second conditional statement :

In the statement above, we used “were” instead of “was.” That’s even if the latter is considered the proper past simple form of the verb to be to go with the pronoun “I.”

We do this because we’re talking about an imaginary situation. No one can reverse time and be a child again, right? That’s just impossible. By saying “If I were,” we’re changing the mood of the verb to be from indicative to subjunctive .

The indicative mood describes real situations or facts. On the other hand, the subjunctive mood describes situations that are hypothetical or are not real. For second conditional statements, we always use were .

“Was” Usually Refers to the Past

When you see the word “ was ,” we’re most likely talking about something that previously occurred.

Specifically, was indicates that the first and third singular person points of view acted in the past. For this reason, we use was with the indicative mood.

In other words, the rule for was/were typically comes down to singular vs. plural when using the past tense of the verb “ to be .”

However, as with most grammatical rules in English , there is an exception here.

Which is Correct: “If I Was” or “If I Were”

Most statements that include if are subjunctive. In these cases, we use were . Notwithstanding , there is one exception for the first person point of view: I .

On one side, we have was in the indicative mood to indicate reality.

On the other, we have were in the subjunctive mood to refer to imaginary or hypothetical situations.

But, there is also a third option in the middle: what should you use when you aren’t sure if something is real or imaginary?

In this case, “If I was” is the grammatically correct choice. In other words, when it’s not clear if something is real or hypothetical, “ I was” is correct.

In the above example, the speaker isn’t sure if they made a mistake or not. This situation might be imaginary, but it might also be real. As a result, the speaker can’t use were since this option is for purely imaginary situations.

Therefore, we use “ If I was ” to show this doubt grammatically.

Now, let’s compare the “ If I was vs. were” in action:

The above example expresses a purely imaginary situation: I don’t live in Los Angeles, so I don’t drive to work. I show that the scenario isn’t real by using the verb “ to be ” with the subjunctive mood were .

Conversely, the above example expresses doubt. For instance, I did live in Los Angeles in the past, but I don’t anymore. Additionally, I used to drive, but I don’t anymore.

If I don’t remember exactly when I moved or when I stopped driving, I should use the if I was construction to express this doubt to my audience.

A boy and girl holding sign boards. The boy's sign board reads WAS. Past tense: First person singular. The girl's sign board reads WERE. Past tense: second person singular/plural.

When “Were” is Past Tense and When it’s Subjunctive

Was tends to hang out exclusively with the past tense in the indicative mood. However, were can express the real past tense in the indicative mood or an imaginary situation in the subjunctive mood. How do you tell the difference?

Were and Past Tense

The trick here is to associate were and the past tense with subject-verb agreement. In other words, whether you should use was vs. were depends on who is speaking.

For example, use was with these points of view:

  • First person singular = I was
  • Third person singular = he/she/it was

However, use were with these points of view:

  • Second person singular = you were
  • Second person plural = you (all) were
  • First person plural = we were
  • Third person plural = they were

Should I use Was or Were with There?

Whether to use was or were with there has to do with subject-verb agreement . When a sentence starts with the word there , the words following the verb are typically the subject. For example, in the sentence “ There are oranges on the table ,” the subject is oranges . If the subject is singular, then you should use the verb was (“ There was an orange… “). Yet, if the subject is plural, then the correct verb to use is were (“ There were oranges… “).

📝 Whether to use was or were depends on several factors, including:

  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Whether you’re using the subjunctive mood
  • Point of view

Were and the Subjunctive Mood

Subjunctive what? Unless you’re a diehard grammarian or advanced polyglot , you’ve probably never heard of subjunctive mood . In simple terms, the phrase describes a verb tense we associate with unreal statements or questions.

Essentially, whereas most statements reveal something that is currently happening or has previously happened, a subjunctive sentence refers to something that hasn’t actually happened. That may be a want, a wish, or a suggestion.

📝 We use the subjunctive mood to express:

  • Wishfulness
  • Hypothetical situations
  • Possibilities

In both written and spoken English, subjunctive mood usually appears by an indicative verb such as want , wish , desire , suggest , or recommend . What’s more, sentences that express possibilities often include the word if .

When creating a subjunctive mood, the traditional singular/plural rules for was/were don’t apply. In fact, when it comes to the subjunctive mood, there’s an easy rule for choosing was or were : always choose were .

📝 Phrases used to express subjunctive mood include:

  • He/she were

You’ll note that none of these examples describes a current reality. Instead, they all describe hypothetical, desired, or imaginary situations. Therefore, we use were regardless of whether the subject is singular or plural to make this departure from reality clear.

Which is Correct Grammatically: If I Was or If I Were?

Both of the phrases if I was and if I were are grammatically correct , but they mean very different things. Therefore, the difference between if I was and if I were depends on what you are trying to say. First, use if I was for something that might be real, or to express doubt when you’re not sure if something is true ( If I was late responding to you, I apologize ). Second, use if I were to express something unreal, imaginary, or hypothetical ( If I were a dragon …”

Often, the word if introduces subjunctive mood. When a sentence includes the phrase if I was or if I were , grammatists tend to label this subjunctive mood. That means the sentence refers to something that goes against, or is contrary to, the current truth. In other words, the sentence may express a desire, wish, possibility, or hypothetical situation. For subjunctive statements or questions, the grammatically correct phrase is “ If I were “.

Was and Were Sentence Examples

Here are examples of was vs. were in a sentence:

Was or were? A girl dancing. Text reads: She was dancing. Second image shows the girl with a boy dancing. Text reads: They were dancing.

Can you say if I Were?

You can say if I were. In fact, were is typically the correct conjugation of the verb to be in this context. Because this phrase begins with the word if , it’s subjunctive mood. That’s another way of saying it describes a hypothetical or unreal situation. In subjunctive sentences, the correct form of to be is always were .

Is If I Were a Boy Grammatically Correct?

If I were a boy is grammatically correct. This construction is correct because it reflects subjunctive mood. In other words, the phrase refers to a hypothetical or unreal situation. In this particular hypothetical, the writer is speculating about what might happen if her gender were different. When you write a sentence using subjunctive mood, you should always conjugate the the verb “ to be ” as were — regardless of the speaker’s point of view.

Were vs. Was: a Matter of Style?

It’s also worth noting that more and more writers are opting to use was instead of were in subjunctive sentences. This is particularly true in informal prose . It’s led some grammarians to speculate about the subjunctive were eventually becoming obsolete.

A Brief Was/Were Recap

By following a few basic rules, understanding when to use was and were doesn’t have to leave you with a headache.

  • When conjugating the verb to be in the past tense, use was when writing in first or third person singular. Use were when writing in second person singular or plural or first-person or third-person plural.
  • Use were when crafting sentences that involve hypothetical situations, speculation, or wishes. This is known as subjunctive mood and is often identified by the inclusion of the word if .
  • If a sentence starts with the word there , use was if the subject is singular. Use were if the subject is plural.

Main Was vs. Were Takeaways :

  • Was and were are past tense versions of the verb to be . They are both correct, depending on the context.
  • When you want to talk about an imaginary, hypothetical, or unreal situation, use the subjunctive mood were across the board ( If I were a dinosaur… ).
  • When you want to talk about reality, follow the normal conjugation for the verb “to be” in the past tense. Use the indicative mood was for I/he/she ( She was here ) but were with you/we/they ( You/we/they were here ).

Practice Your Grammar Skills With These Was and Were Exercises

Was and were question #1.

“Was” and “were” are ___ that express the past tense “to be.”

The answer is A. “Was” and “were” are past tense versions of the verb “to be.”

Use or When Question #2

Which of the following determines whether to use “was” or “when” in a sentence?

The answer is D. All the factors outlined above can determine whether to use “was” or “when”.

Was vs. Were Question #3

____ is acceptable when writing in singular first person or third person.

The answer is WAS. “Was” is the correct choice when writing in first person or third person (he, she, it) singular.

Were vs. Was Question #4

_____ is acceptable when writing in the second person singular, second-person plural, and first and third-person plural.

The answer is WERE. “Were” is correct when writing in the second-person singular, second-person plural, and first and third-person plural.

Was and Were Question #5

______ is used for hypothetical situations.

The answer is WERE. Hypothetical situations need the subjunctive mood. So “were” is appropriate.

Was vs. Were Question #6

The subjunctive mood does NOT express _____.

The answer is C. A subjunctive sentence refers to something that hasn’t happened.

Were vs. Was Question #7

_____ is used for situations that happened in the past.

The answer is C. Either can be appropriate, depending on the subject-verb agreement.

Was or Were Question #8

Complete the sentence. I _____ a professional athlete.

The answer is WAS. The situation occurred in the past, and it’s in first-person singular.

Were or Was Question #9

Complete the sentence. Jane’s brothers _____ scientists.

The answer is WERE. The situation occurred in the past, and it’s in third-person plural.

Was vs. Were Question #10

Complete the sentence. If I ___ taller, I would play professional basketball.

The answer is WERE. The situation is imaginary.

Were vs. Was Question #11

Complete the sentence. John ___ my best friend.

The answer is WAS. The situation occurred in the past, and it’s in third-person singular.

Was vs. Were Question #12

Complete the sentence. Jack and Jill ____ in Paris last year.

Read More: 🛣️ Toward Vs. Towards: An Easy Guide On When To Use Which

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Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, Writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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A Word, Please: ‘Was’ or ‘were’? Here’s the key to the answer

Subjunctive, that's the term for the grammar dynamic that determines whether “was” or “were” is best in a sentence.

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“If there were a Form 3, you would have already filled it out.” Reader Jessica had a question about a sentence like this.

The speaker already knew about a Form 1 and a Form 2. The existence of Form 3, however, was hypothetical. So, Jessica wanted to know, is that “were” correct? Or should it be “was”?

There’s a one-word key to finding the answer: subjunctive. That’s the term for the grammar dynamic that determines whether “was” or “were” is best here.

Armed with that one little word, you can research the issue and arrive at an answer. But Jessica already knew that. She Googled “subjunctive” and still couldn’t figure out what it meant for her sentence.

“I haven’t been able to find any examples on the internet about ‘if there were ...’ Only examples of “If he/she/it were ...”

In other words, “there” is complicating the question of whether the verb should be “was” or “were.” But does the “there” really affect the verb?

In this case, no. But it’s good to understand both dynamics, the subjunctive and something called “existential there,” to work all this out.

The subjunctive mood refers to sentences that express wishes, suppositions, statements of necessity, demands and other “contrary to fact” statements.

“If he were taller” is an example of a contrary-to-fact subjunctive. He’s not taller. He’s as tall as he is. So this is subjunctive.

Compare that to “If he was being honest, you’ll get all your money back.” In this case it’s possible he was being honest. Time will tell. So it’s called “indicative,” which for our purposes just means “not subjunctive.”

The difference is reflected in the verb. In the past tense, the subjunctive applies only to the verb “be,” and it’s formed by replacing “was” with “were.” “If he were being honest” (which means he wasn’t) versus “If he was being honest” (which means it’s possible).

In the present tense, the subjunctive applies to all verbs, and you form it by replacing the conjugated verb with the “base form” of the verb.

Compare “Zach locks up the office at night” with “It’s crucial that Zach lock up the office at night.” “Locks” is the conjugated form. “Lock” is the base form.”

And by putting “it’s crucial” at the head of our sentence, we’re creating a statement of necessity that triggers the subjunctive mood.

Using the subjunctive, by the way, is usually optional. There’s no rule that says you have to use it. The term is just a way of understanding why we are sometimes inclined to say “if I were” instead of “if I was.”

So, going back to Jessica’s original question: Does having “there” as a subject have any effect on the subjunctive? The “there” in that sentence is a little confusing because “existential there” has a way of turning a sentence on its head.

Compare “A man was spying on you” to “There was a man spying on you.”

In the first, we have a simple subject-verb relationship in which the doer of the action, the man, is the subject of the verb, “spying.”

But in the second, the grammatical subject of the sentence is “there.” It’s the subject of the verb “was.” The doer of the action hasn’t changed. It’s still the man. But the grammatical subject has. It’s now “there.”

Using existential there is easy if you don’t think about it. Native speakers understand you have a choice of “a man was spying” or “there was a man spying.” Whichever better captures your emphasis and works with the meter of your sentence is fine.

Existential there has no special rules when it comes to the subjunctive. Just as “he was” becomes “he were” in the subjunctive, “there was” becomes “there were.”

So the answer to Jessica’s question is that “were” is the correct choice. Form 3’s existence is purely hypothetical, so the subjunctive would be “If there were a Form 3.”

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your homework was or were

June Casagrande is a grammar columnist and the author of “The Joy of Syntax: A Simple Guide to All the Grammar You Know You Should Know.” She can be reached at [email protected] .

your homework was or were

Is it “You were” or “You was?” (Correct Grammar + Examples)

you were or you was

Is it “you was” or “you were?” Which is correct? When saying something like, “You were part of the team that day?” Should someone use the word combination “you + was” or “you + were?” Learn the correct way to say something was in the past tense in this short American English guide.

Is it “you were” or “you was?”

The correct phrase is “you were.” Starting a sentence or having a sentence with “you was” is grammatically incorrect. “You were” is the proper form of referring to the personal pronoun of “you” and referring to something that is in the past tense (the word “were”).

Sentences using “you were”

Here are sentences using the “you were” combination to better understand how it’s used in American English:

  • You were supposed to wake up early so you could let the dogs outside.
  • You were part of the team last week but you won’t be this week.
  • I knew you were going to let me down. This is very unfortunate.

Why is “you was” incorrect

When we think of combinations like “he was” or “she was” or even “they were,” we can see that the second person singular form of the verb “to be” is “were” rather than was.

While some personal pronouns (he/she) can have the combination of “was” in them, “you” is the only combination where we were “were” rather than “was.”

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your homework was or were

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your homework was or were

About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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homework", singular or plural?

  • Thread starter J_Ariel
  • Start date Nov 12, 2008
  • Nov 12, 2008

Hi everyone, got a little problem: I know the word "homework" is uncountable, but in a passive sentence like "Homework have been made?", would it be "have" or "has"? I think it would be "have", but that would mean it's countable. Or, though uncountable, "homework" is plural??? Thanks a lot  

Maximus07

Senior Member

In most cases that I can think of homework(s) with an 's' would sound wierd. It I am sure is used once in a while but I believe in most if not all cases it would be without 's'.  

Wynn Mathieson

Wynn Mathieson

It would be "Homework has been DONE" (<-- N.B. not "made"). Use of the passive voice does not alter the singularity of the mass-noun "(home)work".  

Basil Ganglia

Basil Ganglia

As I learned English growing up ''Homework'' was always singular. I have heard my children and some of their friends use ''homeworks'', however. In this usage, each homework assignment from a different class or teacher was a separate "homework''. I consider ''homeworks'' to be substandard English, but it's certainly not unknown.  

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Which is Correct “Are” or “Were”? When to Use Each Conjugation

By: Author Noelle Rebain

Posted on Published: November 11, 2021

“Are” and “were” are both “to be” verbs, but you cannot use them interchangeably. Since misusing these verbs can create confusion, let’s look at when which is correct: “are” or “were”?

You should use “are” when the subject of your sentence is plural or from the second-person point of view (i.e., “you”) and in the present tense. You should use “were” when the subject is plural or in the second person POV but in the past tense. You can also use “were” in the subjunctive mood when speaking about a hypothetical situation.

Here, we’ll define both “are” and “were” and explore the usage of both the present and past tense forms in English. We’ll also take a look at how you can use “were” in the subjunctive mood. Continue reading for a more detailed explanation.

What Is the Difference Between “Are” and “Were”?

While both “are” and “were” are conjugations of the verb “to be,” the primary difference between these verbs is that “are” is a present tense form, and “were” is a past tense form. 

Remember that present tense means something is happening now, while past tense indicates something that happened in the past, whether moments before or longer.

Therefore, you can only use “are” when writing or speaking in the present tense and “were” when writing or speaking in past tense or about a hypothetical situation.

We can also use both “are” and “were” in the indicative mood, while only “were” can function in the subjunctive mood — we’ll discuss these two moods in writing a bit more later in the article.

The Definition of Are

The verb “are” is the present tense second-person singular form of “to be” as well as the present tense plural form ( source ). Whether singular/second person or plural, remember that you can only use “are” to indicate an event or action in the present tense, not past tense.  

Using the second person singular, you could write: “ You are learning English.” But you also use “are” when you are writing in the present tense with plural subjects, such as “ We are learning English,” and subsequently in the third person, “ They are learning English.”

“Are” is in contrast to the singular conjugation of the verb “to be,” which is “am.” You would only use “am” when writing or speaking in the first-person singular present tense form, such as “ I am learning English.” You can only use “are” with a singular subject when you are speaking from the second-person point of view (i.e., you). 

The Definition of Were

The verb “were” is the past tense second-person singular form of “to be” as well as past tense plural and past tense subjunctive. The main distinction between “were” and “are” is that “are” is the present tense form, while “were” is the past tense form of the same verb.

You might say, “ You were learning English when you first arrived in the United States.” This sentence is the second person past tense form. 

Similarly, you can say, “ We were learning English when we first arrived in the United States.” This is also in the second person past tense form, but rather than singular (you), using “we” indicates more than one or plural. 

If you write the same sentence and use “they,” you are still writing in the past tense form and thus need to use “were,” but you would be writing in the third-person versus second-person point of view.  

your homework was or were

When to Use “Are” and “Were” Correctly

In general, you use verbs in their base form and modify them depending on the noun you are using to adhere to the grammar rules for subject-verb agreement ( source ). 

However, “to be” verbs like “are” and “were” are irregular because their conjugated forms vary depending on the tense, mood, and personal pronouns we use with the verb.

English has many different tenses, and understanding them is essential to mastering the language. Remember that tenses can indicate time, duration, or state. Examples include the present tense, past simple tense, past continuous, future simple tense, etc. 

The main distinction between “are” and “were” is that of the simple present tense versus the simple past tense . Understanding the difference between the two can help you recognize tenses more easily. 

Below is a quick table for reference. You’ll note that “are” is always present tense, and “were” is always past tense, regardless of the point of view from which you are writing. 

The time frame and, of course, the context of your sentence will indicate whether you should use “are” or “were” at any given time. 

Present Tense: Are

The present tense is a set of verb forms that indicate something happening now. Again, we use “are” as the present tense form of the verb “to be.” 

The singular form of “to be” would be “is,” while “are” is the plural form. For this reason, you should only use “are” when the subject of your sentence is plural or if you are speaking or writing in the second person (we/you) or third person (they). 

Take a look at the sentence below.

  • Greg and Donna are at the front door.

Greg and Donna are the subjects. Because there are two subjects (Greg and Donna), the subject is plural, and, thus, we should use “ are,” not “is.” The sentence is also in the present tense, not the past tense. We know this because “are” always indicates present tense.

You can also use “are” in the present tense with another verb to indicate a continuous action, which we call the present progressive or present continuous tense. 

Below, rather than the simple present tense with a single verb, we’ll use a verb phrase to indicate an action occurring in the present but that is ongoing. 

  • Greg and Donna are knocking on the front door.

Again, Greg and Donna are the subjects. Thus, the subject is plural, so we need to use “are” if we choose to write in the present tense. 

Additionally, in this example, “are knocking” is the full verb phrase in the present tense form. Adding the -ing suffix to the base verb “knock” indicates that the action is ongoing or progressive, so we call this present progressive or present continuous.

Remember, when you use the present tense with plural subjects, whether from a second- or third-person point of view, you’ll need to use “are.”

Past Tense: Were

Past tense indicates something that has already happened. The simple past tense describes the past in the capacity of one time period, directly before the present. We use “were” as the past simple tense form of “to be.” Look at the sentence below, in comparison to those above where we used “are” instead. 

  • Greg and Donna were at our house.

Again, Greg and Donna are the subjects. Because there are two subjects, the subject is plural. We can assume the sentence is in the past simple tense form because we used “were” rather than “are.” 

Remember that when you write in the simple past tense with plural subjects, you’ll always use “were.” You’ll also use “were” with single subjects only when writing from the second-person point of view, such as in “ You were at our house.”

You can also use “were” with another verb, where “were” acts as an auxiliary verb to essentially help define the tense and indicate a continuous action ( source ). 

  • Greg and Donna were having an argument.

While the argument occurred in the past, we also know that it was an event that was continuous in nature or ongoing. Using “were” helps to communicate to your reader that the argument happened at some point before the present moment.

Tenses can be tricky, and while the simple past tense is potentially the easiest to understand, others can feel confusing. For more information on the differences between past tenses, take a look at “ Have Run or Had Run: When to Use the Proper Past Tense .” 

Understanding When to Use “Were” Versus “Was”

One question that often comes up is differentiating not only between “are” and “were” but also between “were” and “was.” We’ve talked a lot about singular versus plural and past versus present. By now, you should know that “are” is present tense and “were” is past tense, and you can use both with plural subjects. 

But “was” is also a conjugated form of the verb “to be.” And, like “were,” it is also past tense.  However, unlike “were,” “was” is the first- and third-person singular form of the verb. Here are two sentences illustrating the difference:

  • I was at your house yesterday.
  • They were at your house yesterday.

The first sentence above uses “was” because the subject is first person singular (“I”). Conversely, the second sentence uses “were” because “they” is the third-person plural form.  You can also use the third-person forms “he” and “she” with was; you would not use these pronouns with “were” because they are singular. 

Using “Were” in the Subjunctive Mood

Grammatical moods are sets of verb forms that express the purpose of a sentence. 

In addition to using “were” to denote past simple tense, you can also use “were” in the past subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood is a verb form representing an act or statement not as fact but contingent, hypothetical, possible, or viewed emotionally, like wishful thinking.  

An example of this would be if you said, “If I were you, I would have left sooner to avoid being late.” Similar to the past tense conjugation of the verb “to be,” you need to use “were” with the subjunctive conjunction of the verb because the situation is not based in reality but is an unreal or imagined situation.  

The example sentence above is hypothetical in nature because you cannot be another person. It is in the past subjunctive mood, a situation that is not “real,” thus requiring “were.”   

Much like an “if/then” statement indicates a hypothesis, a “wish/were” statement is a sure sign of the subjunctive mood. Here is another example:

  • I wish Johnny were here today.

“I wish” indicates a strong desire (though not a reality), thus the subjunctive mood. 

For more information on the subjunctive mood, take a look at “ I Wish I Was or I Wish I Were: Past Tense and the Subjunctive Mood. ”

Try to work through the practice sentences in the next section on your own.

person opening notebook on brown wooden table

More Practice With “Are” and “Were”  

Below, you’ll see a few sentences with blanks indicating where you’ll need to choose between “are” and “were.” Look for keywords that denote tense (past versus present) to help you choose, as well as indicators of the subjunctive mood. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

  • Today, we ____ (are or were) celebrating the Fourth of July at the park.
  • Yesterday, we ____ (are or were) planning the party at Donna’s.
  • I wish I ____ (are or were) eating pie.

In the first sentence, the word “today” indicates present tense; similarly, in the second, “yesterday” indicates past tense, and thus “were” is the correct choice. In the final sentence, “I wish” indicates the subjunctive mood, and, thus, “were” is again the correct choice. 

Final Thoughts

Remember that the main distinction between “are” and “were” is that you will use “are” for the present tense and “were” to denote past tense. And, you can also use “were” in the subjunctive mood when writing or speaking about a hypothetical situation or scenario. 

Tenses and the plurality of the subject in your sentence have a significant effect on the grammatical accuracy of your writing, but knowing which “to be” verb form that you’ll need to use is pretty simple if you can differentiate between past simple (were) and past present (are). 

'Was' and 'Were' Worksheet for Homework

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Best 2024 Super Bowl commercials: All 59 ranked according to USA TODAY Ad Meter

Super Bowl 58 is over, but the big game's commercials will live forever.

Over 160,000 people registered to vote in the 36th USA TODAY Ad Meter competition, which ranks the Super Bowl commercials each year. The 2024 winner was State Farm's "Like a Good Neighbaaa," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, with a score of 6.68.

Rounding out the this year's top five were ads from Dunkin' , Kia, Uber Eats and the NFL.

Here's a look back at all the 2024 commercials, ranked by their Ad Meter score:

1. "Like a Good Neighbaaa," State Farm – 6.68

2. "the dunkings," dunkin' – 6.52, 3. perfect 10 | the kia ev9, kia – 6.36, 4. "worth remembering," uber eats – 6.26, 5. "born to play," nfl – 6.23, 6. "hard knocks: a dove super bowl film," dove – 6.18, 7. "talkin’ like walken," bmw – 6.10, 8. "old school delivery," budweiser – 6.03, 9. "can’t b broken," verizon – 5.91, 10. "dina & mita," doritos – 5.84, 11. "javier in frame," google – 5.80, 12. "mayo cat," hellmann's – 5.74, 13. "picklebabies," e*trade – 5.72, 14. "an american love story," volkswagen usa – 5.69, 15. michael cerave, cerave – 5.67, 16. "hail patrick," paramount+ – 5.64, 17. 'wicked' trailer, universal – 5.60, 18. "silence," foundation to combat antisemitism – 5.57, 19. "easy night out," bud light – 5.51, 20. "superior beach," michelob ultra – 5.49, 21. "that t-mobile home internet feeling," t-mobile – 5.46, 22. "mullets," kawasaki – 5.44, 23. "yes," reese's – 5.43, 24. "having a blast," mountain dew – 5.41, 25. "the m&m’s almost champions ring of comfort," m&m's – 5.39, 26. "here’s to science," pfizer – 5.34, t-27. "the wait is over," popeyes – 5.31, t-27. "thank you france," etsy – 5.31, 29. "couch potato farms," pluto tv – 5.30, t-30. "mr. p," pringles – 5.27, t-30. "betmgm is for everyone," betmgm – 5.27, 32. "the return of the coors light chill train," coors light – 5.17, 33. "twist on it," oreo – 5.15, 34. "watch me," microsoft – 5.06, 35. "t-mobile auditions," t-mobile – 5.04, 36. "tina fey books whoever she wants to be," booking.com – 5.02, 37. "judge beauty," e.l.f. cosmetics – 4.95, 38. "dareful handle," toyota tacoma – 4.91, 39. "launch," homes.com – 4.90, 40. "mr. t in skechers," skechers – 4.87, 41. "extraterrentrials," apartments.com – 4.84, 42. "nerds big game commercial ft. addison rae," nerds gummy – 4.75, 43. "doordash all the ads," doordash – 4.73, 44. "foot washing," he gets us – 4.65, 45. "the future of soda is now," poppi – 4.63, 46. "hello down there," squarespace – 4.61, 47. "salon," homes.com – 4.60, 48. "life is a ball," lindt usa – 4.59, 49. "shōgun - big game commercial," fx and hulu – 4.53, 50. "doctor on the plane," drumstick – 4.52, 51. "mascot," homes.com – 4.48, 52. "making memories on the water," bass pro shops and cabela’s – 4.42, 53. "the future," crowdstrike – 4.34, 54. "gronk misses the fanduel kick of destiny 2," fanduel – 4.28, 55. "who is my neighbor," he gets us – 4.24, 56. "love triangle," starry – 4.21, 57. "make your moves count," turbotax – 4.20, 58. "less social media. more snapchat," snapchat – 3.84, 59. "american values," robert f. kennedy jr. campaign – 3.41.

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Trump’s Harsh Punishment Was Made Possible by This New York Law

The little-known measure meant hundreds of millions in penalties in the civil fraud case brought by Attorney General Letitia James.

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Letitia James sits in court behind Donald Trump, who is blurred and out of focus.

By Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich

The $355 million penalty that a New York judge ordered Donald J. Trump to pay in his civil fraud trial might seem steep in a case with no victim calling for redress and no star witness pointing the finger at Mr. Trump. But a little-known 70-year-old state law made the punishment possible.

The law, often referred to by its shorthand, 63(12), which stems from its place in New York’s rule book, is a regulatory bazooka for the state’s attorney general, Letitia James. Her office has used it to aim at a wide range of corporate giants: the oil company Exxon Mobil, the tobacco brand Juul and the pharma executive Martin Shkreli.

On Friday, the law enabled Ms. James to win an enormous victory against Mr. Trump. Along with the financial penalty , the judge barred Mr. Trump from running a business in New York for three years. His adult sons were barred for two years.

The judge also ordered a monitor, Barbara Jones, to assume more power over Mr. Trump’s company, and asked her to appoint an independent executive to report to her from within the company.

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, reacted with fury, saying “the sobering future consequences of this tyrannical abuse of power do not just impact President Trump.”

“When a court willingly allows a reckless government official to meddle in the lawful, private and profitable affairs of any citizen based on political bias, America’s economic prosperity and way of life are at extreme risk of extinction,” he said.

In the Trump case, Ms. James accused the former president of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loans and other financial benefits. Mr. Trump, she argued, defrauded his lenders and in doing so, undermined the integrity of New York’s business world.

Mr. Trump’s conduct “distorts the market,” Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for Ms. James’s office, said during closing arguments in the civil fraud trial.

“It prices out honest borrowers and can lead to more catastrophic results,” Mr. Wallace said, adding, “That’s why it’s important for the court to take the steps to protect the marketplace to prevent this from happening again.”

Yet the victims — the bankers who lent to Mr. Trump — testified that they were thrilled to have him as a client. And while a parade of witnesses echoed Ms. James’s claim that the former president’s annual financial statements were works of fiction, none offered evidence showing that Mr. Trump explicitly intended to fool the banks.

That might seem unusual, but under 63(12), such evidence was not necessary to find fraud.

The law did not require the attorney general to show that Mr. Trump had intended to defraud anyone or that his actions resulted in financial loss.

“This law packs a wallop,” said Steven M. Cohen, a former federal prosecutor and top official in the attorney general’s office, noting that it did not require the attorney general to show that anyone had been harmed.

With that low bar, Justice Arthur F. Engoron, the judge presiding over the case, sided with Ms. James on her core claim before the trial began, finding that Mr. Trump had engaged in a pattern of fraud by exaggerating the value of his assets in statements filed to his lenders.

Ms. James’s burden of proof at the trial was higher: To persuade the judge that Mr. Trump had violated other state laws, she had to convince him that the former president acted with intent. And some of the evidence helped her cause: Two of Mr. Trump’s former employees testified that he had final sign-off on the financial statements, and Mr. Trump admitted on the witness stand that he had a role in drafting them.

Still, her ability to extract further punishments based on those other violations is also a product of 63(12), which grants the attorney general the right to pursue those who engage in “repeated fraudulent or illegal acts.”

In other fraud cases, authorities must persuade a judge or jury that someone was in fact defrauded. But 63(12) required Ms. James only to show that conduct was deceptive or created “an atmosphere conducive to fraud.” Past cases suggest that the word “fraud” itself is effectively a synonym for dishonest conduct, the attorney general argued in her lawsuit.

Once the attorney general has convinced a judge or jury that a defendant has acted deceptively, the punishment can be severe. The law allows Ms. James to seek the forfeit of money obtained through fraud.

Of the roughly $355 million that Mr. Trump was ordered to pay, $168 million represents the sum that Mr. Trump saved on loans by inflating his worth, she argued. In other words, the extra interest the lenders missed.

The penalty was in the judge’s hands — there was no jury — and 63(12) gave him wide discretion.

The law also empowered Justice Engoron to set new restrictions on Mr. Trump and his family business, all of which Mr. Trump is expected to appeal.

The judge also ordered a monitor to assume more power over Mr. Trump’s company, who will appoint an independent executive who will report to the monitor from within the company.

Even before she filed her lawsuit against the Trumps in 2022, Ms. James used 63(12) as a cudgel to aid her investigation.

The law grants the attorney general’s office something akin to prosecutorial investigative power. In most civil cases, a person or entity planning to sue cannot collect documents or conduct interviews until after the lawsuit is filed. But 63(12) allows the attorney general to do a substantive investigation before deciding whether to sue, settle or abandon a case. In the case against Mr. Trump, the investigation proceeded for nearly three years before a lawsuit was filed.

The case is not Mr. Trump’s first brush with 63(12). Ms. James’s predecessors used it in actions against Trump University, his for-profit education venture, which paid millions of dollars to resolve the case.

The law became so important to Ms. James’s civil fraud case that it caught the attention of Mr. Trump, who lamented the sweeping authority it afforded the attorney general and falsely claimed that her office rarely used it.

He wrote on social media last year that 63(12) was “VERY UNFAIR.”

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

Ben Protess is an investigative reporter at The Times, writing about public corruption. He has been covering the various criminal investigations into former President Trump and his allies. More about Ben Protess

Jonah E. Bromwich covers criminal justice in New York, with a focus on the Manhattan district attorney's office, state criminal courts in Manhattan and New York City's jails. More about Jonah E. Bromwich

New listings of homes for sale in N.J. dropped again last month. See state-by-state rankings.

  • Updated: Feb. 18, 2024, 2:13 p.m. |
  • Published: Feb. 17, 2024, 3:00 p.m.
  • Amira Sweilem | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Fewer homes were listed for sale in New Jersey last month compared to a year earlier, continuing a long trend of a tightening real estate market with low available inventory, according to the latest Realtor.com data showed.

The 6,088 newly listed homes was a decline of 5.93% compared to January 2023, according to the data. The median sale price for the new listings in New Jersey was $524,950.

A total of 295,178 homes were listed nationwide at a median price of $409,500.

More N.J. real estate news

  • New listings of homes for sale plummeted 10% or more in these 7 N.J. counties. See latest prices.
  • See all homes sold in these New Jersey counties, Feb. 5 to Feb. 11
  • Sellers stunned after N.J. house drew a crowd and sold for $242K over asking price

The biggest decline in new listings was reported in Illinois, which saw a more than 15% year-over-year drop.

New home listings have decreased nationwide because of high interest rates, according to a Redfin report .

Can’t see the table? Click here.

Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a subscription.

Amira Sweilem may be reached at [email protected] .

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Use "Was" vs. "Were" Correctly

    Grammarly Updated on May 8, 2023 Grammar Chances are, you're familiar with one difference between was and were: the fact that was is the first- and third-person singular past tense form of the verb to be, while were is the second-person singular past and the plural past form of to be.

  2. Was vs. Were: What's the Difference?

    Subjunctive Mood The subjunctive mood is a verb form that is used for unreal or hypothetical statements. It is made up of the phrases I were, he were, she were, it were, etc. You often use this form when you are being wishful. For example, I wish I weren't so shy. I wish it were warmer outside. If I were taller, I could dunk a basketball.

  3. Was vs. Were

    Use were if the subject is plural. Remember this rule when trying to decide whether to use was, were, or some other form of the verb to be. For example: There was a dog on the road. (The subject is "dog," a singular noun.) There were three people trying to lure the dog away from the road. (The subject is "people," a plural noun.)

  4. Was vs. Were

    In this case, both was and were are in the past tense. A main difference is that one ( was) is singular, and the other ( were) is often plural. If was is past-tense singular, then it refers to one person or object being in a previous moment or time. Karen was tired, so she took a nap. (She felt tired at a time before the present.)

  5. "Was" vs. "Were": Use Cases And Examples

    Do you know when to use "was" and when to use "were"? It seems simple until you start dreaming about all the possibilities. Learn their uses here!

  6. When to use 'was' versus 'were'

    Whenever we're talking about something that isn't a reality at the moment, we discard "was" and choose "were" instead. It doesn't matter whether we are referring to a single person or a group of people. As soon as we cross the border between reality and speculation, "were" is the only word to choose. For example.

  7. Learn When To Use Was and Were

    When writing in the subjunctive mood, use were. Use was if what you're writing is a statement of fact. Nathaniel acts as if he were a professional athlete. I was hitting home runs by the age of five. Use there was if the subject is singular, and there were if the subject is plural. There was one balloon at the party.

  8. How to Use "Was" vs. "Were" Correctly

    The children were laughing and playing together. If I Was vs. If I Were: Now, let's dive into a bit more magical territory - the land of "if.". When you're dreaming or wishing for something that isn't real, you use "were" in your sentence. Example 1: "I wish I were a superhero." (But, hey, I'm not really a superhero.)

  9. The Definitive Guide: When to use Was vs. Were

    Use were when crafting sentences that involve hypothetical situations, speculation, or wishes. This is known as subjunctive mood and is often identified by the inclusion of the word if. If a sentence starts with the word there, use was if the subject is singular. Use were if the subject is plural.

  10. Understanding Was vs. Were (Grammar Rules and Examples)

    1: Both "was" and "were" deal with the past tense ( were - first and third-person singular past tense and was - second-person past and plural tense). 2: "Was" for singular and "were" for plural (remember to be ). 3: Sentences in the subjunctive mood (unrealistic, unreal, and wishful) are an exception to the rule, and use ...

  11. "Was" or "Were" in the "If" Clause/Conditional

    Matt Ellis Updated on October 3, 2022 Grammar The correct choice between was and were in an if clause depends on whether you're using an unreal conditional sentence, also known as a hypothetical sentence. But how do you know if you're dealing with an unreal conditional sentence?

  12. A Word, Please: 'Was' or 'were'? Here's the key to the answer

    The difference is reflected in the verb. In the past tense, the subjunctive applies only to the verb "be," and it's formed by replacing "was" with "were." "If he were being honest" (which means...

  13. When to Use Was & Were

    Always use the verb ''was'' instead of ''were'' when speaking or writing in the first person. For example: I was born in 1981. I was walking home yesterday when I got robbed. To unlock this lesson ...

  14. Is it "You were" or "You was?" (Correct Grammar + Examples)

    The correct phrase is "you were.". Starting a sentence or having a sentence with "you was" is grammatically incorrect. "You were" is the proper form of referring to the personal pronoun of "you" and referring to something that is in the past tense (the word "were").

  15. homework", singular or plural?

    Nov 12, 2008. #5. As I learned English growing up ''Homework'' was always singular. I have heard my children and some of their friends use ''homeworks'', however. In this usage, each homework assignment from a different class or teacher was a separate "homework''. I consider ''homeworks'' to be substandard English, but it's certainly not ...

  16. "Was" or "were" in subjunctive clauses

    The grammatical rule, if you want to be strict, is that in subjunctive clauses you always use were, therefore all of the following examples are correct: If I were you, I'd definitely think this through. If she were to know what you did, she'd be so angry! However, some people break this rule, to me for reasons unknown.

  17. Which is Correct "Are" or "Were"? When to Use Each Conjugation

    The verb "were" is the past tense second-person singular form of "to be" as well as past tense plural and past tense subjunctive. The main distinction between "were" and "are" is that "are" is the present tense form, while "were" is the past tense form of the same verb.

  18. Was or Were? Flashcards

    1 / 11 Flashcards Learn Test Match Q-Chat Created by mayadevi Teacher http://www.ereadingworksheets.com/free-grammar-worksheets/was-and-were-worksheet.pdf Directions: Circle whether "was" or "were" should be used. If "were" is correct circle why. Students also viewed Bio Exam 1 Teacher 20 terms jsmwilliamson Preview Was/Were Teacher 14 terms

  19. I need a specific rule to explain difference between 'were' and 'did

    For most verbs, the simple past tense when making questions is formed by beginning your sentence with did, then comes the subject, and finally the verb itself in present tense form. to be is just somewhat special in that regard. You simply put the verb (was or were) in front of the subject. That's really all there is to it at the end of the day.

  20. 'Was' and 'Were' Worksheet for Homework

    'Was' and 'Were' Worksheet for Homework 135 1 2 3 4 5 rated by 10 teachers by draizal Grammar » Verb Tense Worksheets » Past Simple | Views: 15,203 | Level: Complete Beginner, Elementary | 5 out of 5, rated by 10 teachers | Found a mistake? Print this worksheet for class homework.

  21. 143 BE: WAS or WERE English ESL worksheets pdf & doc

    Grammar Topics BE: WAS or WERE 143 BE: WAS or WERE English ESL worksheets pdf & doc SORT BY Most popular TIME PERIOD All-time ktregh To be (Past Simple): was/were. This worksheet includes was/were activities with listening and speaking tasks. The audio https://english-portal.com.ua/worksheet/to-be-past-simple-was-were-worksheet#top... 89903 uses

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