Difference between were and was
Were vs was:
All verbs of the English language should be conjugated according to the subject itself. There are many different verbs in the English language which is why English grammar has become a rather confusing subject for students. The verb ‘be’ is a particularly tricky one to deal with as it contains a large number of forms, each one being extremely different from one another. ‘Were’ and ‘was’ are two such forms of the verb ‘to be’ that students of English often tend to get confused between.
When do we use ‘were’?
‘Were’ is the past plural tense of the verb ‘be’ and it is often used for referring to an incident regarding several entities which happened in the past.observe the following sentences for example.
They were on that hill when we last saw them.
Both the boy and the girl were tall.
They were handsome men.
In the above sentences, the verb ‘were’ is used to indicate plural entities in the past tense. However, the verb ‘were’ can also be used as an auxiliary. Observe the following examples.
They were climbing that tree when I last saw them.
Peter and Mary were holding hands.
In the above sentences, the subject is plural and the verb ‘were’ is used as an auxiliary in the past continuous tense. However, the verb ‘were’ can also be used in a past subjunctive sense. For example, let us look at the following sentences.
If I were rich, I would build a home for the poor.
If she were prettier, she would have been married off sooner.
When do we use ‘was’?
‘Was’ is the past singular tense of the verb ‘to be’ and it is used when the subject is singular and yet is referring to a past incident. Observe the following examples.
I was there.
My brother was in the room.
In the above examples, the subject is single and they all refer to incidents which happened in the past. The verb ‘was’ can also be used as the auxiliary for past continuous tense in the single form. Let us take a look at the following sentences.
I was taking a bath when the bell rang.
She was still getting ready when the car arrived.
The above sentences use the word ‘was’ as an auxiliary in a present continuous context. The subjects are all in singular form and yet, the actions are continuing in the past.
What is the difference between ‘was’ and ‘were’?
‘Were’ and ‘was’ are both conjugated forms f the verb ‘to be’ and both these words are used in order to indicate a past event. However, the difference between the two words lies in the fact that while ‘was’ is used for a single entity, the word ‘were’ is used for denoting a fact regarding several entities.
One can take the following sentences for example regarding the use of ‘were’ and ‘was’ in accordance with the subject of the sentence.
She was at home that day.
They were at home that day.
Robert was at the bookshop yesterday evening.
Robert and Peter were at the bookshop yesterday evening.
All the above sentences are in the past tense. The subjects ‘she’ and ‘Robert’ are singular. Therefore, ‘was’ is used in these sentences implying the subject’s state. The subjects ‘they’ and ‘Robert and Peter’ are plural. In these sentences, ‘were’ is used to imply the state of the subject.
‘Were’ and ‘was’ can also be used as an auxiliary verb in past continuous sentences.
She was cooking when the children came in.
The boy and the girl were studying when it started raining.
The above sentences are in the past continuous tense. ‘Were’ and ‘was’ are used as auxiliaries here according to the singularity or the plurality of the subjects. However, when it comes to the subject ‘you’ whether it is singular or plural, one always uses ‘were’.
You were getting wet in the rain. So I brought you this umbrella.
‘Were’ can also be used as a subjunctive whereas ‘was’ cannot be thus used as a subjunctive. This applies to every subject regardless of whether they are singular or plural.
If I were a pilot, I would fly around the world.
If she were a dancer, she would have made it in to ballet school.
If they were musicians, they would have had quite a large fan base.
The above sentences are in the subjunctive form and the word ‘were’ is utilized in them irrespective of whether the subject is singular or plural.