Difference between Was and Were | Was vs Were

There are many students who struggle when it comes to using auxiliary verbs words like ‘was’ and ‘were’. One single instance of careless usage might lead to major grammatical errors in sentences. So how will students know when and how to use the words ‘was’ and ‘were’? This article will talk about the basic points of difference between the words ‘was’ and ‘were’, and once students understand that, it’ll be easier for them to use these correctly.

Helping/Auxiliary verbs play an essential role in the English Language. So it’s necessary that students, from a young age, have a good grasp over the usage of these two words. A student who has a strong grasp of grammar develops better ability to construct sentences that are free of grammatical errors. After reading this article, you will have a better idea of when to use the auxiliary verbs ‘was’ and ‘were’ without any confusions. Let’s have a look at the following points.

Table Summarising the Difference between Was and Were

Was Were
Meaning The word ‘was’ is the past form of the verb ‘be’ and is used with a first and third person singular subject. The word ‘were’ is the past form of the verb ‘be’ and is used with the first and third plural subject and second person (both singular and plural)
Usage It is used as a Verb. It is used as a Verb.
Example Sheldon was at the college yesterday. The boys were playing in the field.

The table above shows that the words ‘was’ and ‘were’ are neither synonymous nor can be used interchangeably. Students who had confusions regarding these terms can now see the difference between them.

The Difference between Was and Were – Meanings

The simple difference by which one can differentiate between the words ‘was’ and ‘were’ is that the former is used if the subject is singular, and the latter is used when the subject is plural. The word ‘was’ is used with a first and third-person singular subject and is the past form of the verb ‘be’. So, with ‘I’ (first person singular) and ‘he/she/it’ (third-person singular), one can use ‘was’, whereas with ‘we’ (first-person plural), ‘they’ (third-person plural) and ‘you’ (second-person singular/plural), one can use ‘were’. The following examples will help students understand clearly when and how  ‘was’ and ‘were’ are used in English sentences. Let’s have a look at examples.

Examples of Was and Were

The following examples will ensure students understand the terms ‘was’ and ‘were’ clearly:

Was – i) I was washing the car yesterday. (first person singular)

ii) Amy was at the piano lessons. (third-person singular)

Were – i) We were playing tennis last night. (first-person plural)

ii) You were one of the smartest students in our class. (second person plural)

iii) They were leaving the house. (third-person plural)

Was and Were – Conclusion

Though the words ‘was’ and ‘were’ are both past tense forms of the verb ‘to be’, they can’t be used synonymously or interchangeably. When students are using these words, they have to understand the tense and the kind of subject (first, second and third; singular and plural) they are dealing with. The BYJU’S website also offers various articles on many such ‘Difference Between’ two words that students often get confused with and end up using incorrectly.


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