Writers often confuse were and we’re. They’re spelled almost the same — except for one little apostrophe. But they mean different things. Here’s a handy guide.
The Definitions of Were and We’re
Were is a past tense verb. It’s a version of the “to be” verb that we use with you and we and they.
We’re = we are. We’re is a contraction — two words joined by an apostrophe — of the words we and are.
When to Use “Were” (With Examples)
Use were to discuss states of being with the pronouns you, we, and they.
An example of were:
“After Tory and Pat went on a tropical cruise, they were very sunburned.”
“We were swimming right next to a jellyfish and almost got stung!”
|Grammar Sidebar: How’s Your Mood?|
|With certain pronouns, were can also signal when something is contrary to fact, in what grammar nerds like me call the “subjunctive mood.” |
Language has moods!? Yes, but not like happiness or sadness. The subjunctive mood is something we use when something is contrary to fact. It may sound complicated, but it’s pretty simple.
We often use it with the word if.
“If I were a rich man.”
This statement is contrary to fact (I am not rich), so we use the subjunctive mood. Many people in everyday speech might say “If I was a rich man” — but this is technically incorrect.
The subjunctive mood also occurs with wishes, as in this example:
“I wish he were smarter.”
But alas, he is not. Mood.
When to Use “We’re” (With Examples)
Use we’re when you are talking about yourself and other people.
To easily remember when to use we’re, use the apostrophe as your clue. It stands in for the “a” of are, reminding you that we’re is essentially two words: we and are.
An example of we’re:
“Jay and I are hanging out—we’re going to the bodega for some snacks.”
“I spend a lot of time with Rosa and Ari because we’re all such good friends.”
Putting “Were” and “We’re” Together
These two words can be hard to use simultaneously, because were is past tense and we’re—a contraction for we are—contains the present tense. But it’s possible!
An example of were and we’re in the same sentence:
“Now that we have the map, we’re going to find the treasure that the dwarves were singing about.”
And one more:
“We’re so relieved that you were able to escape the werewolf.”
Werewolf!? Now that’s a topic for another day! (Or night. Awoooo!)
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