Were, We're, and Where

Commonly Confused Words

Confusing Where, We're, and Were

The words were, we're, and where are easily confused because they have similar sounds and spellings. They are not homophones, however, and their meanings are quite different.

Definitions and Usage

Were (rhymes with fur) is a past form of the verb to be:

  • the past first-person plural of be (for example, "We were busy last week")
  • the past second-person singular and plural of be ("You were busy last week")
  • the past third-person plural of be ("They were busy last week")
  • the past subjunctive of be for all persons ("If I were you, I'd demand a raise").

We're (rhymes with fear) is a contraction of we are (as in "We're going back to work tomorrow").

The adverb and conjunction Where (rhymes with hair) refers to a place (as in "I don't know where you live").

Also see: Commonly Confused Words: Wear and Where

Examples

  • We were lost in the middle of Timbuktu. No one knew where we were. Next time we travel, we're going to bring along a map.
     
  • "[F]rom the spiral stairs that led down from the southwest tower came the shuffling of slow, padded feet. The magicians were coming! Low and slow, they were chanting words that were strange."
    (Dr. Seuss, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Vanguard, 1938)
     
  • "If I were king," whispered the Grand Duke Wilfred, "I'd chop off his head."
    (Dr. Seuss, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Vanguard, 1938)
     
  • "Our teapots are broken. Our rocking-chairs smashed.
    And our bicycle tires all blew up when we crashed.
    So, Horton, please," pleaded the voice of the Mayor's,
    "Will you stick by us Who's while we're making repairs?"
    (Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who! Random House, 1954)
     
  • "Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying.
    You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing!"
    (Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go! Random House, 1990)
     

    Practice

    (a) ______ going to Savannah for St. Patrick's Day.

    (b) We don't know ______ we'll be staying.

    (c) Last year we ______ forced to sleep in the van.

    (d) "If I _____ King of the Forest, not queen, not duke, not prince,
    My regal robes of the forest, would be satin, not cotton, not chintz.
    I'd command each thing, be it fish or fowl,
    With a woof and a woof and a royal growl—woof."
    (Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg,  "If I Were King of the Forest." The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

    (e) "_____ off to see the wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
    We hear he is a whiz of a wiz, if ever a wiz there was."
    (Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, "We're Off to See the Wizard." The Wizard of Oz, 1939)
     

    Answers to Practice Exercises

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

    200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Were, We're, and Where

    (a) We're going to Savannah for St. Patrick's Day.

    (b) We don't know where we'll be staying.

    (c) Last year we were forced to sleep in the van.

    (d) "If I were King of the Forest, not queen, not duke, not prince,
    My regal robes of the forest, would be satin, not cotton, not chintz.
    I'd command each thing, be it fish or fowl,
    With a woof and a woof and a royal growl—woof."
    (Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, "If I Were King of the Forest."The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

    (e) "We're off to see the wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
    We hear he is a whiz of a wiz, if ever a wiz there was."
    (Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, "We're Off to See the Wizard." The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words