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Are vs. Were: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sawaira Riaz || Published on November 26, 2023
"Are" is the present tense plural form of the verb "to be," while "were" is the past tense plural form of the same verb.

Key Differences

"Are" and "were" represent different tenses of the verb "to be," which is fundamental in English grammar. "Are" is used in the present tense for plural subjects (like 'they', 'we', or 'you') or singular 'you', indicating a current state of being, as in "They are happy." "Were" is the past tense form used for plural subjects and the singular second person 'you', referring to a state or condition that existed in the past, as in "They were happy."
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023
In terms of usage, "are" is employed to describe a current condition, ongoing action, or general truth in the present, such as "The shops are open." "Were," however, is used to describe situations, conditions, or actions that were true at some point in the past but not necessarily now, like "The shops were open until 9 PM."
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023
"Are" can also be used to form present continuous tense verbs, which indicate ongoing actions happening at the moment of speaking. For example, "We are studying." In contrast, "were" is used in the past continuous tense to describe actions that were ongoing in the past, as in "We were studying when she called."
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023
In conditional sentences, "were" is often used in the subjunctive mood to express unreal or hypothetical situations, regardless of the subject's number, like in "If I were a bird, I would fly." "Are," being in the present tense, is not used in such hypothetical or unreal conditional structures.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023
The correct usage of "are" and "were" also reflects subject-verb agreement in English. "Are" must be used with plural subjects or singular 'you' in the present tense, whereas "were" is used with both plural subjects and singular 'you' in the past tense, ensuring that the verb agrees with the subject in both number and tense.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Tense

Present
Past
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Subject Agreement

Plural subjects and singular 'you'
Plural subjects and singular 'you'
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Usage

Describes current conditions or truths
Indicates past states or actions
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Continuous Tense

Forms present continuous verbs
Forms past continuous verbs
Aimie Carlson
Nov 26, 2023

Conditional Sentences

Not used for hypothetical situations
Used in subjunctive mood for hypotheticals
Aimie Carlson
Nov 26, 2023
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Are and Were Definitions

Are

Indicates a state of being in the present.
The shops are open today.
Janet White
Nov 10, 2023

Were

Used in conditional sentences for hypotheticals.
If I were a millionaire, I would travel the world.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 10, 2023

Are

Expresses a general truth or habitual action.
Cats are independent animals.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 10, 2023

Were

Describes past states or conditions.
The doors were locked.
Huma Saeed
Nov 10, 2023

Are

Used with singular 'you' to indicate a current state.
You are the best player on the team.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 10, 2023

Were

Past tense of "to be" for plural subjects.
The students were in class yesterday.
Harlon Moss
Nov 10, 2023

Are

Used to form the present continuous tense.
They are playing soccer now.
Huma Saeed
Nov 10, 2023

Were

Indicates a past habitual action.
They were always early to meetings.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 10, 2023

Are

Present tense of "to be" for plural subjects.
The children are at school.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 10, 2023

Were

Second person singular and plural and first and third person plural past indicative of be.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

Second person singular and plural and first and third person plural present indicative of be.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

Past subjunctive of be. See Usage Notes at if, wish.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

A metric unit of area equal to 100 square meters (119.6 square yards).
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

Inflection of be
John, you were the only person to see him.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

Inflection of be
Mary, where are you going?
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

Inflection of be
We were about to leave.
Mary and John, you were right.
They were a fine group.
They were to be the best of friends from that day on.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

Inflection of be
We are not coming.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

Inflection of be
I wish that it were Sunday.
I wish that I were with you.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

Inflection of be
Mary and John, are you listening?
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

(Northern England) be.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

Inflection of be
They are here somewhere.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

(fandom) The collective name for any kind of person that changes into another form under certain conditions, including the werewolf.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

Inflection of be
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

To wear. See 3d Wear.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

(rare) An accepted (but deprecated and rarely used) metric unit of area equal to 100 square metres, or a former unit of approximately the same extent. Symbol: a.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

To guard; to protect.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

Misspelling of our
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

A weir. See Weir.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

The present indicative plural of the substantive verb to be; but etymologically a different word from be, or was. Am, art, are, and is, all come from the root as.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

A man.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

The unit of superficial measure, being a square of which each side is ten meters in length; 100 square meters, or about 119.6 square yards.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

A fine for slaying a man; the money value set upon a man's life; weregild.
Every man was valued at a certain sum, which was called his were.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Are

A unit of surface area equal to 100 square meters
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

The imperfect indicative plural, and imperfect subjunctive singular and plural, of the verb be. See Be.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 02, 2023

Were

Used in the past continuous tense.
We were watching a movie last night.
Harlon Moss
Nov 10, 2023

FAQs

What is the verb tense of "are"?

"Are" is in the present tense.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Can "are" express habitual actions?

Yes, "are" can express general truths or habitual actions.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Can "are" be used with singular subjects?

"Are" is used with plural subjects and singular 'you'.
Huma Saeed
Nov 26, 2023

Is "are" used in describing current actions?

Yes, "are" describes current states or ongoing actions.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Can "were" be used for singular subjects?

"Were" is used with plural subjects and singular 'you'.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 26, 2023

Can "were" describe past habits?

Yes, "were" can indicate past habitual actions.
Harlon Moss
Nov 26, 2023

Is "are" used in forming questions?

Yes, "are" is used in forming present tense questions.
Janet White
Nov 26, 2023

What is the verb tense of "were"?

"Were" is in the past tense.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 26, 2023

Do "are" and "were" follow subject-verb agreement?

Yes, both follow subject-verb agreement rules.
Janet White
Nov 26, 2023

Can "were" be used in subjunctive mood?

Yes, "were" is commonly used in the subjunctive mood.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Is "were" used in hypothetical statements?

Yes, "were" is used in the subjunctive mood for hypotheticals.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Does "were" imply a completed action?

Yes, "were" often implies actions completed in the past.
Harlon Moss
Nov 26, 2023

Is "are" used for future tense?

No, "are" is not typically used for future tense.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Is "were" used in past continuous tense?

Yes, "were" is used to form the past continuous tense.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 26, 2023

Can "were" be used in conditional sentences?

Yes, especially in unreal or hypothetical conditions.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 26, 2023

Are "are" and "were" part of the verb "to be"?

Yes, they are forms of the verb "to be."
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Is "are" appropriate for formal writing?

Yes, "are" is appropriate in both formal and informal contexts.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 26, 2023

Can "are" and "were" be interchanged?

No, they are used in different tenses and contexts.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Is "are" used in present continuous verbs?

Yes, "are" forms present continuous verbs.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 26, 2023

Can "were" indicate past continuous actions?

Yes, "were" is used in past continuous tense constructions.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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