Was vs. Were: Which One Do You Use?

English can be quite challenging, especially when it comes to words that can easily confuse. Some examples would be may vs. might, who vs. whom, and then vs. than. Another combo that can confuse anyone is, was vs. were. Both was and were are singular and plural forms of the past tense of the verb “to be.”  In this article, we will discuss some significant differences between was vs. were and learn how to use them in sentences.


When to Use “Was”

As mentioned above, both was and were are past tenses, but they have different uses. Was is used for 1st person (I) singular and 3rd person singular (she, he, it). It is used in statements that indicate facts.


  • She was about to have dinner.
  • It was a great time.
  • It was a significant natural disaster.
  • He was elected president in 2007.
  • She was mad at him.
  • He was happy about the news.


When to Use “Were”

Were, on the other hand, is used for 2nd person singular (yours, your, you) and 1st and 3rd person plural (they, we). It is also used to indicate hypothetical statements.



  • They were going to Europe
  • You were cunning, “said the girl.
  • My brothers and sisters were deeply grieved.
  • I wish I were a king.
  • If I were a rich man. – Fiddler on the Roof

If I was vs. If I were (Subjunctive Mood) 

The most common confusion with was vs. were is the use of were in the place of was in the subjunctive mood. “If I was vs. If I were” are the most confusing phrases for a lot of writers. 

If I was a better singer, I could entertain more.


If I were a better singer, I could entertain more.

Which one is correct? Well, such sentences are concerned with the subjunctive mood. For those who don’t know, the subjunctive mood is a verb form that is used for hypothetical, unreal, and wishful statements. This form is used for being wishful. Such sentences often use were in the place of was. 


  • I wish it were cooler outside
  • If I were in the show, I would sing the song.
  • If I were taller, I could touch the roof.
  • If I were rich, I could drive a fancy car.
  • Ernest spends dollars as if he were a millionaire.
  • I wish I were not so fearful.

Since all of the above sentences do not portray reality, they use the verb “were.” These phrases talk about things that someone wishes would happen. 

Were as a subjunctive mood verb describes something unreal or hypothetical, Was is just the opposite. The word is used for statements of fact.  Check out some examples of “When” that describe facts.


  • Last year, I was in the US this month. 
  • Last night, I was watching the movie until midnight. 
  • When she was younger, she wanted to be an actor.
  • When my brother was younger, he wanted to be a dancer. 
  • In the London office, I was her colleague. 
  • Your sister was my schoolmate. 

So these are a few differences between the usage of was vs. were. We hope this post will help you use them correctly now.  

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