Hey everyone! I just signed up and hope that I'm posting in the right forum for this question. I am editing a novel I wrote, and a friend pointed several sentences out to me where he thought I was using the incorrect word, in some cases "was" and in others "were".
I just used was in the above sentence btw :) I don't know a lot about grammar, but I was doing some research and found these guidelines:
Use 'was' if you are thinking of something as a unit, as a group.
Use 'were' if you are thinking of something as several individuals.
So I have the following sentences and hope you can all correct them for me. I am including the entire senteces:
"It was very idealistic and simpleminded teachings, of course, yet as a society, it was an absolutely true credos."
"The jammed sword was excruciatingly painful, but it was the wounds on his back that was killing him."
"Whatever troubles they had encountered the night before was now in the past."
"It wasn't lush, green summertime plante either, but rather brown-hued bushes and shrubs, wet-looking yet dry to the touch."
"It was all random acts, they concluded, having nothing more plausible to attribute it to."
Are the above right? They are to me, bearing the rule-of-thumb in mind..
I do feel that the final "was" in the second sentence should be a "were", but the rest sound right to me. Again, I know very little about grammar I'm afraid, which is why I try and find rules of thumb like the one I mentioned in the beginning of this post.
Last edited by paragondk; 21-Jul-2010 at 12:01. Reason: clarification
If the subject is singular or non-countable, and the situation is real, use "was." If the subject is plural and/or unreal, use "were." (For example, Beyonce has a song titled "If I Were a Boy." Although she is just one person, the use of "were" is correct, because she is speaking about an unreal situation.)
There are some singular "units" that contain multiple individuals. For example, the word "audience" is singular; you'd say, "the audience was bored by the performance" even though there are many people in the audience. But what matters is not whether you think of it as a unit, but whether the word is properly considered singular or plural. As far as your sentences, 2006 already did the corrections perfectly, so I won't repeat them.
Thanks for the answers!
The "subject" is the person's pov/thoughts describing the sentence then?
For example in: "The jammed sword was excruciatingly painful, but it was the wounds on his back that were killing him."
The jammed sword is singular for the first "was", the man's back is singular for the second "was" and the wounds are plural, hence "were" for the final one?
The subjects being the sword, the man's back, and the wounds?
Sorry if I am a bit thick here, I just never learned grammar properly and sort of learn it now as I come across new problems.
Thanks for all the help! Much appreciated :)