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Write the Right Word: Was or Were

Do you ever wonder whether you or someone else has used “was” or “were” correctly?

In their simplest form, both are in the past tense, meaning they should refer to something that already happened. Which one you use depends on whether you are talking about one or more than one person, animal or thing.

For instance: “She was 10 years old when the family moved to the farm.” “The animals were in the barn.”

The confusion starts when you use the subjunctive mood. It’s for situations that are hypothetical or contrary to fact, or you’re expressing doubts, wishes or regrets. The bottom line is you use “were” in all these cases.

For example: “I wish I were done with my chores. Then I could go to the movie.” The speaker obviously isn’t done with the chores.

Or this: “If your dad were home, he would help you with your project.” This indicates the dad is not home.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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