Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Are and Were

Are vs  Were

English is a complicated yet very interesting language, and because of this complexity, even native speakers make mistakes when using it. Being well versed in English, both spoken and written, takes time and effort. Most students find verbs and verb tenses very confusing, and the proper usage and forms of the verb ‘be’ are no exception.

Like the Greek sea god Proteus who was capable of changing forms, the verb’be’ too, is notorious for its various forms and is in fact one of the most irregular among all verbs. Among its present forms are ‘are.’ This form is the counterpart of the singular ‘is,’ which naturally means that ‘are’ should be used when the subject is plural. The arbitrariness of subject-verb agreement in English creates complications when using the verb ‘are.’

However, generally speaking, the verb ‘are’ is used when the subject of the sentence involves two or more persons or things. And since ‘are’ is in present tense, it must be used to denote an action that is being done in the present time. Its counterpart, ‘were,’ is used when the subject of the sentence is plural and the action or condition that is expressed has already been completed or the event has happened in the past.

Both ‘are’ and ‘were’ are linking verbs. Linking verbs function as the connectors of the subject and the main verb and to additional information about the subject. In the example, ‘The dogs are running around the backyard,’ the verb ‘are’ connects the complete subject ‘The dogs’ to the main verb ‘running’ and ‘around the backyard’, which is an adverb of place. Since ‘are’ is used and not were, this means that the dogs were presently running when the statement or sentence was written or uttered.

If you want to state something that was already done, you would say, ‘The dogs were running around the backyard.’ This means that the action ‘running’ was already completed in the past, thus the dogs were no longer running around the backyard when the statement was made. With this being said, the verb ‘were’ is used to denote past actions or past conditions. Similar to the verb ‘are,’ ‘were’ is used when the subject is plural or is plural in form. Subjects that may look singular but plural in form include the pronoun ‘you.’ It may pertain to one person or it could be addressed to many individuals.

An example is, ‘You are a good singer.’ ‘You’ in this case is referring to one person only but the verb ‘are’ is used. This is because ‘you’ is a special kind of pronoun that takes a plural form. The verb ‘are’ is used so it means that the subject in the sentence is still a good singer when the statement was made. The verb ‘were’ should be used if the person is not singing anymore or is no longer a good singer like he or she was before.

If you want to express a condition or state of being that is still true upon the utterance of the statement, you may use the verb ‘are’ as long as your subject is plural or more than one. So you can say, ‘My parents are teachers,’ if your parents are teachers until the time you said the statement. However, if your parents used to teach before but are no longer teaching at present, then you should say ‘My parents were teachers.’ The verb ‘were’ is also used to say something that is no longer true. This is used especially when the person or the subject of the sentence has already passed away. You can say, ‘My grandparents were the sweetest folks I have ever had.’

Summary:

1. The verb ‘are’ is a plural variation of the ‘be’ verb and is used in sentences where the subject is plural or plural in form and if the action or condition happens in the present time.
2. The verb ‘were’ is a plural variation of the ‘be’ verb and is used in sentences where the subject is plural or plural in form and if the action or condition is completed in the past.


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1 Comment

  1. incisive analysis. I like it.

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