[ wur; unstressed wer; British also wair ]
See synonyms for were on Thesaurus.com
  1. a second person singular past indicative; first, second, and third person plural past indicative; and past subjunctive of be.

Origin of were

First recorded before 1000; Middle English; Old English wǣre past subjunctive, wǣre 2nd-person singular past and wǣron 2nd-person plural past of wesan “to be”; cognate with Dutch, German waren, Danish var. See was

Grammar notes for were

Words that may be confused with were

Words Nearby were

Other definitions for we're (2 of 2)

[ weer ]

  1. contraction of we are:We're happy to see you.

usage note For we're

Words that may be confused with we're

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use were in a sentence

  • Having yourself immortalized with a paunch indicated you were wealthy/held high office/were involved in derring-do.

  • If you find yourself hungering for more humorous were-action, check out the British version of Being Human on BBC America.

    My Favorite Horror Comedies | Marti Noxon | August 16, 2011 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • So too, does Henry Kissinger and did the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr., but they are/were apparently another story.

    The 'Delusional Left' Wins | Eric Alterman | March 18, 2010 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • There was a certain difficulty in obtaining the necessary funds without announcing precisely what they-were for.

    Hyacinth | George A. Birmingham
  • In pattern it showed bright green flowers-that-never-were sprawling on a purple background.

    Roast Beef, Medium | Edna Ferber

British Dictionary definitions for were (1 of 2)


/ (wɜː, unstressed ) /

  1. the plural form of the past tense (indicative mood) of be and the singular form used with you. It is also used as a subjunctive, esp in conditional sentences

Origin of were

Old English wērun, wæron past tense plural of wesan to be; related to Old Norse vera, Old Frisian weria, Old High German werōn to last

usage For were

Were, as a remnant of the past subjunctive in English, is used in formal contexts in clauses expressing hypotheses (if he were to die, she would inherit everything), suppositions contrary to fact (if I were you, I would be careful), and desire (I wish he were there now). In informal speech, however, was is often used instead

British Dictionary definitions for we're (2 of 2)


/ (wɪə) /

contraction of
  1. we are

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012