Thursday, June 11, 2015

What's the difference between WAS and WERE?

Here is another post for my beginning ESL students about the difference between WAS and WERE, a very simple concept, yet many of my students still have a bit of trouble remembering the conjugations and often confuse the pronouns.

Past Tense: TO BE

I           WAS
You     WERE
He        WAS
She      WAS
It          WAS
We       WERE
They    WERE

As you can see here, we have two groups of pronouns for each conjugation.  (I, he, she and it take on WAS, while (you, we and they) take on WERE.  Now let's take a look at negative statements and their abbreviations with apostrophes:

Negative Past Tense: TO BE

I was not= I wasn't
You were not=You weren't
He was not=He wasn't
She was not=She wasn't
It was not=It wasn't
We were not=We weren't
They were not=They weren't

A quick note about apostrophes: Apostrophes take the place of a letter or letters.  In this case it's only one letter...the letter 'o'.

Interrogative Past Tense: TO BE (Interrogative is a fancy word for question...)

Now remember that with the verb form TO BE and forming questions, we just switch the subject and the verb.   (I was tired./Was I tired?)  Also remember that we don't need to use any auxiliary verbs with the verb TO BE (such as do, does or did...)

Wasn't I a great speaker?
Were you not at work today?
Was he eating dinner?
Was she calling you?
Was it the final decision?
Were we late?
Were they at the police station?

Now we can add (Who, What, When, Where, Why) to these questions:

Why wasn't I a great speaker?
When were you at work today?
Where was he eating dinner?
What was she calling you about?
Why was it the final decision?
When were we late?
Why were they at the movies?

Here is an old post about interrogative present tense TO BE in case you're curious. 

I hope this helps!

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