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Difference Between Were and Where

english wordsWere vs. Where

English grammar is full of tricky concepts that confuse individuals, not just because of spelling, but more because of the similarity in pronunciation or sound. In this connection, two such words share the same fate, and they are the words ‘where’ and ‘were.’

Native English speakers will immediately say that this is just basic stuff, because indeed these words are very simple. However, non-native English speakers usually have a difficult time distinguishing between the two. To avoid further confusion, continue to read.

Besides from the obvious difference in spelling, the two words really belong to different word classes. ‘Where’ is actually an adverb that pertains to time. It is also a question word that asks for the place or location of something or someone. ‘Where’ is one of the 5 W question words along with the other four, namely: Who, what, when and why.

In the case of the word ‘were,’ it is a plural past verb form. This means that it is the past form of the word ‘are’, and at the same time, the plural (refers to more than one person) form of the word ‘was.’ If the word (verb) ‘is’ changes to its plural form, it will become ‘are.’ Similarly, when the word ‘was’ is pluralized it will become ‘were.’ All in all, ‘is’ is homologous to ‘was’, and ‘are’ is homologous to ‘were.’

In terms of sound or pronunciation, the two words really differ. Where is pronounced strictly as if you are saying it as ‘hwer’ instead of ‘wher’. Hence, there initially seems to be a very soft sound of the letter ‘h’. Its last letter ‘e’ is also silent, because the word in itself is only composed of one syllable. The first ‘e’ though, is pronounced in the same way as you say the word ‘let.’ It puts emphasis on the word, and stresses the letter ‘e’ a little longer. On the other hand, ‘were’ is also a one syllable word with a silent ‘e’ at the end, but is differently pronounced using the so-called schwa sound. This is a sound that seems to be somewhere in between the letters ‘a’ and ‘e’. As well, there is no ‘h’ sound heard in this word.

Overall, they differ in the following aspects:

1. ‘Were’ is a verb, whereas ‘where’ is an adverb of time.

2. ‘Were’ is a plural past word, whereas ‘where’ is a question word.

3. ‘Were’ is pronounced using the schwa sound, while ‘where’ uses the ‘long e’ stress with a gentle ‘h’ sound at the start.


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