Was or Were?

"Was" or "Were" are the past tenses of the verb "To Be" and it's important to be careful when choosing the correct verb for the subject of a sentence.

You should select the correct verb form from the following:

Singular

I was

You were

He was

She was

It was

Plural

We were

You were

They were

For Example:

"You were supposed to clean your room today."

"He was supposed to clean his room today."

"I was supposed to clean my room today."

"They were supposed to clean their rooms today."

"She wasn't supposed to arrive so early."

"The sheep were grazing in the field." (many sheep)

"The early 1940s was a period of war. / The early 1940s were years of war."

Subjunctive:

So why do we sometimes hear people say "I were", "he were" instead of “I was”, “he was” ? This is the past subjunctive form of the verb "To Be" and is used to make a sentence sound more formal.

Look at the following examples:

Informal

If I was more confident, I would sing.

I wish she wasn't so late all the time!

If only I wasn't so forgetful!

I wish I wasn't so lazy!

I wish it was summer.

He behaves as if he was the owner.

 

Formal

If I were more confident, I would sing.

I wish she weren't so late all the time!

If only I weren't so forgetful!

I wish I weren't so lazy!

I wish it were summer.

He behaves as if he were the owner.

There is one exception here, we never use the form “If I was you” , even in informal situations. We always say “If I were you”.

Exercise

Complete the sentences with was / were - Answers below.

1. "Your parents _______ neighbours of mine many years ago."

2. "There _______ a dozen candidates for the job."

3. "If he _______ a better player, he could make the team."

4. "When I _______ younger I wanted to be a footballer."

5. "________ there many people at the concert?"











More Confusing English Words

Answers!

1. were, 2. were, 3. was (informal) were (formal), 4. was, 5. were