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  1. #1
    paragondk is offline Newbie
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    Question Was or were in several sentences

    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

  2. #2
    2006 is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Was or were in several sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by paragondk View Post
    Hey everyone! I just signed up and hope that I'm posting in the right forum for this question.
    Welcome! Probably the 'Ask a Teacher' foruum would be better.

    "They were very idealistic and simpleminded teachings, of course; yet for society, they were absolutely true credos."

    "The jammed sword was excruciatingly painful, but it was the wounds on his back that were killing him."

    "Whatever troubles they had encountered the night before were now in the past."

    "They weren't lush, green summertime plants ? either, but rather brown-hued bushes and shrubs, wet-looking yet dry to the touch."

    "They were all random acts, they concluded, having nothing more plausible to attribute it to."

    .
    2006

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Was or were in several sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by paragondk View Post
    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.


    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.

  4. #4
    paragondk is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Was or were in several sentences

    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.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Was or were in several sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by Heterological View Post
    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.
    This depends on the variant- in British English, it's very common to see plural verbs used after collective nouns like team/group/audience/government. etc.

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    2006 is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Was or were in several sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by paragondk View Post
    Thanks for the answers!

    The "subject" is the person's pov/thoughts describing the sentence then? A subject can be almost anything.

    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", yes
    the man's back is singular for the second "was" No, "back" is not a subject.
    "it" is singular for the second "was".
    and the wounds are plural, hence "were" for the final one? yes

    The subjects being the sword, it, and the wounds.
    2006

  7. #7
    paragondk is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Was or were in several sentences

    Thanks for all the help! Much appreciated :)

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