1. Published on Amazon? If you have a book, e-book, or audiobook available on Amazon.com, we'll promote it on WritingForums.org for free. Simply add your book to our Member Publications section. Add your book here or read the full announcement.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Dismiss Notice
  1. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,245
    Likes Received:
    1,028
    Location:
    England

    Was / were

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Jul 30, 2015.

    Very quick one, please.

    Which is correct:

    There were four of us, in all

    There was four of us, in all

    ??

    If you can offer a quick and concise explanation it would be helpful, although just the answer will suffice.
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    19,696
    Likes Received:
    11,031
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Were. Four is plural. Us is also plural, but it's subordinate behind a prepositional clause.

    There were four of us to start. Three died. There was only one of us left.
     
  3. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,245
    Likes Received:
    1,028
    Location:
    England
    Thanks, Wreybies. I had gone with 'were', but couldn't trust my instinct.
     
  4. AspiringNovelist

    AspiringNovelist Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2015
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    139
    Location:
    Gulf Coast
    This question relates to subject and verb agreement, was/were and four. When a sentence begins with there or here, the actual subject is considered to be the word or words following the verb. Use a singular verb if the actual subject is singular and a plural verb if the actual subject is plural.
     
  5. daemon

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    984
    Rephrasing sentences like those often reveals the answer intuitively:

    In all, four of us were there.
    In all, four of us was there.
     
    theoriginalmonsterman and OurJud like this.
  6. SwampDog

    SwampDog Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2013
    Messages:
    409
    Likes Received:
    109
    Location:
    Back in Blighty
    Confusion arises because of the way we tend to speak. So natural to say, If I were you, instead of, If I was you.
     
  7. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,245
    Likes Received:
    1,028
    Location:
    England
    Indeed. I hear the former so much more than the latter - which begs the question why, when the latter is the correct one?
     
  8. Aaron DC

    Aaron DC Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,610
    Likes Received:
    1,313
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    That's a different grammar rule again, apparently.
     
  9. S Raven

    S Raven Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2014
    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    West Sussex. UK.
    Confusion arises because of the way we tend to speak. So natural to say, If I were you, instead of, If I was you.

    Second conditionals should really use I were, to make it clear you're using a hypothetical situation. Over the past few years I was has been used more, kind-of blurring the boundary between them.

    Personally I prefer I were.
     
  10. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,245
    Likes Received:
    1,028
    Location:
    England
    I think I'll quit trying to understand the English language. It's far too confusing.
     
    daemon likes this.
  11. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,658
    Likes Received:
    2,537
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    Stick the word in a character's gob and you can break the rules, though it is a risk up top of piece.

    My father were a Yorkshireman, had many strange dialectical quirks. Another, for example - English people eat 'egg and chips.' He would say 'chip and egg.' I inserted this phrase of his into a 'misery memoir' that were published, by the way - a while back, and the sub-editor corrected my voice. I were heart-broken. She changed it back when I squealed.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2015
    SwampDog likes this.
  12. SwampDog

    SwampDog Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2013
    Messages:
    409
    Likes Received:
    109
    Location:
    Back in Blighty
    You do know that Robert Mugabe is a Yorkshireman?

    Read his name backwards - 'E ba gum.

    I'll get me coat.
     
    OurJud and matwoolf like this.
  13. tonguetied

    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 23, 2014
    Messages:
    568
    Likes Received:
    229
    Location:
    Central Florida: land of fire and sand
    I am no English expert but I thought the usage of were was driven by the "you" which is a plural reference with the ability to also refer to a single entity.
     
  14. daemon

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    984
    It simply happens that the past subjunctive of "be" has the same inflection as the past indicative plural of "be".
     
    tonguetied likes this.

Share This Page