When to use “was” and “were”.

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Last week, I published a fun quiz on our social media about the use of the verbs “was” and “were”.

Looking at the results, many who took part didn’t get the answers right, and we received comments from some followers who wanted to know more about this grammatical rule.

So I’m writing this today to explain to you the difference between the two verbs.

When to use “were”:

Take a look at the following sentences:

* I wish I were more confident. (I am not confident enough.)
* If Ameena were taller, she could ride the roller coaster. (Ameena is not tall enough.)
* Faidhi acts as if he were the one in charge. (Faidhi is not actually the one in charge.)
* Hasinah spends money as if she were a millionaire. (Hasinah is not actually a millionaire.)

All of the above sentences use the verb “were” because they aren’t true; they do not describe reality.

We call this form of the verb the “subjunctive mood”, and it is used to talk about a hypothetical or imaginary situation (e.g., If I were you) or to express a wish (e.g., I wish I were on holiday right now).

So remember, if the sentence has the word “if” or “wish”, it’s most likely the subjunctive mood, so you’ll need to use “were”.

When to Use “Was”:

While “were” is used for statements that do not describe reality, “was” is used in statements of fact.

For example:

* Last night, I was watching TV until midnight.
* When I was younger, I wanted to be a singer.
*Your brother was my roommate in college.


Just remember that “was” is used for statements of fact, while “were” is used in the subjunctive mood to indicate imaginary or hypothetical statements. The words “if” and “wish” usually indicate the subjunctive mood.

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Hi there!

We’re Azimah, Amnah and Aisya from Malaysia. We created My English Matters as an online platform to help people improve their English.

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