🏁 When you are talking about something that happened in the past, you have to say you were, never you was. Similarly you have to say I was, or he/she/it was, never he were or I were:
You were late.
I wasn’t- I was early!
📲 💻You can use this link to a Google Form so you can test if you can remember it.
🔆 If you get this already, just go to Skill 29.
🛠 Need more?
This skill, using was/were, will only usually be needed when you are writing about something that happened in the past, especially stories, which are usually set in the past, because was/were are the ordinary past forms of the verb ‘to be.’ They are easily mixed up, so you’ll just have to remember that in more formal English we always have to say the following, so you never have to worry again about choosing the right one to write down:
I + was
You + were
He/she/it + was
We + were
You (more than one of you) + were
They + were
🎯 📝 You can practise by working out in your head (or writing down, if you like) what these wrong uses of was/were should really be:
I were going to the party with Jeff, as he were going too. We asked Carly and Shannon, and they was also going, so we all went together in Jeff’s car. Jeff’s car were fast, so it didn’t take long, but a week later Jeff got a speeding ticket through the post. He were really unhappy. ‘It were really unfair,’ he complained, ‘because everyone else were also saying to go faster, and I’m the one who were fined!’
✅ Your corrected text should look like this:
I WAS going to the party with Jeff, as he WAS going too. We asked Carly and Shannon, and they WERE also going, so we all went together in Jeff’s car. Jeff’s car WAS fast, so it didn’t take long, but a week later Jeff got a speeding ticket through the post. He WAS really unhappy. ‘It WAS really unfair,’ he complained, ‘because everyone else WAS also saying to go faster, and I’m the one who WAS fined!’
You will see that there is another thing that catches people out. It’s when we mean more than one person or thing, but the word behaves like it’s a word for one person or thing. This sounds complicated, but if you learn these ones below you won’t have any trouble:
Everyone + was, e.g. Everyone was enjoying the party.
No one + was e.g. No one was enjoying the party.
Someone + was e.g. Someone was knocking at the door where the party was.
Everything + was e.g. Everything about the party was good.
Nothing + was e.g. Nothing about the party was good.
Some other words need WERE though:
People + were, e.g. people were enjoying the party.
🚦Time for more?
🎯 💻 There are further tests here:
🎓 This mistake is common if you live in a region where it’s normal to swap which way round you say them (this is called dialect, and it means that in some places it sounds normal to say something like ‘he were going out,’ when it should always be, in more standardised English, he was going out).
However, there is an unusual case where you can say ‘I were‘ or he/she/it were, called the subjunctive form, but it’s only really used when you say ‘If I were you..’, ‘If he were older..’, ‘If she were richer..’, and so on. Just watch out for the if!