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1. Second person singular and plural and first and third person plural past indicative of be.
2. Past subjunctive of be. See Usage Notes at if, wish.

[Middle English were, weren, from Old English wǣre, wǣren, wǣron; see wes- in Indo-European roots.]
Our Living Language Although many irregular verbs in English once had different singular and plural forms in the past tense, only one still does today—be, which uses the form was with singular subjects and the form were with plural subjects, as well as with singular you. The relative simplicity in the forms of most verbs reflects the long-standing tendency of English speakers to make irregular verbs more regular by reducing the number of forms used with different persons, numbers, and tenses. Since past be is so irregular, speakers of different vernacular dialects have regularized it in several ways. In the United States, most vernacular speakers regularize past be by using was with all subjects, whether singular or plural. This pattern is most common in Southern-based dialects, particularly African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Some speakers use were with both singular and plural subjects; thus, one may hear she were alongside we were. However, this usage has been much less widespread than the use of was with plural subjects and appears to be fading. · In some scattered regions in the South, particularly in coastal areas of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, vernacular speakers may regularize past be as was in positive contexts and regularize it as weren't in negative contexts, as in He was a good man, weren't he? or They sure was nice people, weren't they? At first glance, the was/weren't pattern appears to come from England, where it is fairly commonplace. However, in-depth study of the was/weren't pattern in coastal North Carolina indicates that it may have developed independently, for it is found to a greater extent in the speech of younger speakers than in that of older coastal residents. · Other forms of negative past be include warn't, common in American folk speech in the 1700s and 1800s, and wont, as in It wont me or They wont home. Wont, which often sounds just like the contraction won't, historically has been concentrated in New England and is also found in scattered areas of the South.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(wɜː; unstressed)
the plural form of the past tense (indicative mood) of be and the singular form used with you. It is also used as a subjunctive, esp in conditional sentences
[Old English wērun, wæron past tense plural of wesan to be; related to Old Norse vera, Old Frisian weria, Old High German werōn to last]
Usage: Were, as a remnant of the past subjunctive in English, is used in formal contexts in clauses expressing hypotheses (if he were to die, she would inherit everything), suppositions contrary to fact (if I were you, I would be careful), and desire (I wish he were there now). In informal speech, however, was is often used instead
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(wɜr; unstressed wər)

a 2nd pers. sing. past indic.; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pers. pl. past indic.; and past subj. of be.
[before 1000; Middle English; Old English wǣre past subjunctive, wǣre past ind. 2nd pers. singular and wǣron past ind. pl. of wesan to be; compare was]
usage: See subjunctive.


contraction of we are.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Were, Wered, Wering

 a military force; a band of troops.
Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. used to talk about the past

Were is the plural form and the second person singular form of the past tense of be.

They were only fifty miles from the coast.
You were about twelve at the time.
2. used in conditional clauses

Were has a special use in conditional clauses when these clauses are used to mention situations that do not exist, or events that are unlikely to happen. When the subject of the clause is I, he, she, it, there, or a singular noun, were is sometimes used instead of 'was', especially in formal writing.

If I were in his circumstances, I would do the same.
If the law were changed, it would not benefit women.

In conversation and in less formal writing, people usually use was.

If I was an architect, I'd re-design this house.
If the business was properly run this wouldn't happen.

Both was or were are now considered correct in clauses like this and are acceptable even in formal writing.

The fixed phrase 'If I were you' almost always contains were, even in informal English. Don't say 'If I was you'.

If I were you, I'd start looking for a new job.

Be Careful!
Don't confuse were /wə/ with where /weə/. You use where to make statements or ask questions about place or position.

Where is the nearest train station?
See where
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012



(ˈbiː giː) abbreviation
Bachelor of Engineering; first degree in Engineering.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.
References in classic literature ?
For the most part they were all timid people--of course, they were petitioners.
"It really appears as though your conclusions were correct."
'Take great care to hold me tight!' said the Darning-needle to the Fingers who were holding her.
I am, as it were, a man proclaimed; I am in a worse plight even than a tramp who has lost his passport.
Elizabeth would not oppose such and injunction-- and a moment's consideration making her also sensible that it would be wisest to get it over as soon and as quietly as possible, she sat down again and tried to conceal, by incessant employment the feelings which were divided between distress and diversion.
I am not at all polite, now, to the Misses Nettingalls' young ladies, and shouldn't dote on any of them, if they were twice as many and twenty times as beautiful.
To say this, when they were certain to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and proved myself to be anything but a great speaker, did indeed appear to me most shameless--unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for is such is their meaning, I admit that I am eloquent.
You yourself will agree that, unless he were drowning he would not mistake a straw for the trunk of a tree."
I implore of you not to betray me, or tell Don Quixote who I am; so that my honest endeavours may be successful, and that a man of excellent wits- were he only rid of the fooleries of chivalry- may get them back again."
During the last days of my mother's life we spoke together frequently of the happy past days when we were living together on the banks of the Greenwater lake.
"That we were engaged to be married," she confessed.
Her gown was black, and the decorations of her hair were black except for a single diamond.