The Grammar GuideSpellingWhat is the difference between "were" and "where"?

What is the difference between "were" and "where"?

What is the difference between "were" and "where"?

The words were and where are often confused because they appear similar. We'll help you to understand the difference.

Were is the past tense of be when used as a verb.

Where means in a specific place when used as an adverb or conjunction.

A good way to remember the difference is that where has an "h" for "home", and home is a place.

Out of the two words, "were" is the most common. It appears about three times more frequently than "where".

Were and where are easy to confuse when writing in English. They look similar, but they are spelled and pronounced differently.

Were is one of the past tense forms of the verb be. It can be used in certain indicative past tenses, as well as the past subjunctive mood.

Where is a word that refers to a specific, unknown place. When it is used in a question to ask about a place or location, it functions as an adverb or pronoun. As a conjunction, it means in or at a specific place, time, etc. (e.g. the pen is where you left it.)

Where rhymes with there. Were rhymes with fur. It's a good idea to read your sentence out loud to see if you are using the correct word.

Is the expression "as it were" or "as it where"?

The correct expression is "as it were", e.g. They had, as it were, gained a son.

Is the phrase "as if they were" or "as if they where"?

You should use "as if they were", e.g. She greeted them as if they were old friends.

Is the phrase "to the point where" or "to the point were"?

The right expression is "to the point where", e.g. He annoyed me to the point where I left the room.

Which is correct, "don't know where" or "don't know were"?

The correct phrase is "don't know where", e.g. I don't know where I left my keys.

Is the correct phrase "where they were" or "were they were"?

The right phrase is "where they were", e.g. When they saw the tree, they knew where they were.

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The definitions in this article were adapted from Wiktionary.

Dictionary Definition of wereDictionary Definition of where

Examples of were in a sentence

The Karands were a warlike race with little patience for cultural niceties.
- Demon Lord of Karanda by David Eddings
She hoped the Zimbabweans were tolerant people.
- Nothing gold can stay by Dana Stabenow
Intellect and purpose were served before the desire to impress a client.
- Weighed in the balance by Anne Perry
It sounded as if the streets were running, And then the streets stood still.
- The collected poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson; Rachel Wetzsteon
How rules were made, why, how they were upheld.
- The heart of Devin MacKade by Nora Roberts

Examples of where in a sentence

Where there had been music, only meat remained.
- The Rise and Fall of a Dragonking by Lynn Abbey
But mostly, as much as I hate it, I can sense where the Thrall are.
- Touch of Darkness by C. T. Adams; Cathy Clamp
The result was sloping tiled floors where an errant step up would meet three steps down.
- The Replacement Child by Christine Barber
She remained where she was.
- Weighed in the balance by Anne Perry
Where no one can even hear you laugh anymore.
- Grand Junction by Maurice G. Dantec
Test yourself

Choose the missing word in each question.