Is ‘There Were’ Correct Grammar?

Understanding the correct use of ‘there were’ and ‘there was’ can greatly improve one’s command of English grammar. These expressions form the basics of subject-verb agreement, an essential part of any fluent language usage.

Understanding Singular and Plural Subjects

To begin, ‘there were’ is used when referring to more than one thing or person, thus it is plural. For instance:

  • “There were some problems with the delivery.”

Conversely, ‘there was’ is used when referring to a single object or person, which implies it is singular. For example:

  • “There was a party last night.”

Dealing with Compound Subjects

Sometimes, a sentence might include a compound subject, where ‘there was’ or ‘there were’ precedes two or more connected items. This commonly leads to confusion. However, the verb’s form ultimately depends on the nearest subject. For example:

  • “There was a rabbit and a fox in the park.”

Here, ‘was’ corresponds to ‘a rabbit.’

Understanding the Subjunctive Mood

English grammar entails more than rules; context and communication intention play significant roles too. Particularly, the subjunctive mood, used to express various states of unreality, can alter the usage of ‘was’ and ‘were.’ Consider this example:

  • “If there were a school in my village, I wouldn’t go to the city for my education.”

Here, ‘were’ is utilized even though ‘school’ is singular. This is because the sentence expresses a hypothetical situation, invoking the subjunctive mood.

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Use in Past Tense

Both ‘there was’ and ‘there were’ can be used in the past tense. Singular objects, as mentioned before, take ‘there was,’ while plural objects use ‘there were’. The choice between these two is fundamentally a matter of subject-verb agreement.


In conclusion, both ‘there was’ and ‘there were’ are correct grammatically. The choice is context-dependent and often hinges on whether the subject is singular or plural. Understanding this rule can make a significant difference in English writing or speech fluency. Always remember, the language’s mood, verb agreement, and context are crucial in deciding between ‘there was’ and ‘there were.’

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