1. Dante Dases
    Offline

    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    3,446
    Likes Received:
    142
    Location:
    West Yorkshire, England

    Were and was

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Dante Dases, Jan 25, 2009.

    This is one of the minor little issues in my writing that always bugs me, but when should I use 'was' and when should I use 'were'?

    I know the singular and plural uses of both, but I'm never sure when to use either in other contexts. Any help on the issue would be greatly appreciated, as it's something I would like to get right.
     
  2. Shadow Dragon
    Offline

    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2008
    Messages:
    3,483
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    In the land of the gods
    Please, give an example of one of those other contexts.
     
  3. Eli
    Offline

    Eli Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    London
    You mean like 'They were over there.' And 'He was doing that'?

    I don't think that there is a rule about it, just read it aloud and you should find it jolts if you have used it wrong...

    'They was playing' vs. 'They were playing'
     
  4. Dante Dases
    Offline

    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    3,446
    Likes Received:
    142
    Location:
    West Yorkshire, England
    I know those, it's the 'I wish I were dead', 'He wished she were with him'.

    I know there are some contexts where were replaces was, and I can't remember the specific rule.
     
  5. Shadow Dragon
    Offline

    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2008
    Messages:
    3,483
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    In the land of the gods
    In those examples, it should be was since the noun that is doing that action was singular. In the example:

    He wished she was with him.

    The second verb is being used for the noun, she which is singular. Now if it was, "He wish they..." then the verb would be "were" instead.
     
  6. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    I know with an if clause you use were even if singular.

    If you were going to become the president what would you do differently?

    If I were her.

    You are correct, and here is why.

    The subjunctive mood is used in dependent clauses that do the following: 1) express a wish; 2) begin with if and express a condition that does not exist (is contrary to fact); 3) begin with as if and as though when such clauses describe a speculation or condition contrary to fact; and 4) begin with that and express a demand, requirement, request, or suggestion. A new section on the uses of the Conditional should help you understand the subjunctive.

    She wishes her boyfriend were here.
    If Juan were more aggressive, he'd be a better hockey player.
    We would have passed if we had studied harder.
    He acted as if he were guilty.
    I requested that he be present at the hearing.
     
  7. Gannon
    Offline

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2007
    Messages:
    3,977
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    Manchester, England
    It sounds as if you might be struggling with the subjunctive mood or tense, as oppose to other past tenses. 'Were' is used with that tense. I attach the Wikipedia link, which appears trustworthy at a cursory glance, for an in-depth look at the subjunctive: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjunctive
     
  8. Dante Dases
    Offline

    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    3,446
    Likes Received:
    142
    Location:
    West Yorkshire, England
    Thanks for that. I knew there was something, and that's been a great help.
     
  9. Atari
    Offline

    Atari Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Louisiana

    The most daunting use is like the example below:

    I wish I was dead.

    The reason that this is incorrect is because I am NOT dead, it is a wish, a peradventure.
    Therefore, it should be written,

    I wish I were dead.

    If it were TRUE, however, it would be written:

    I was dead.
     

Share This Page