“There was” & “There were”

“There was” and “there were” are commonly used to indicate the existence of something in the past. If the subject is singular, use was. If it’s plural, use were. Here’s how to use them:

1. There was: Used when referring to a singular subject or item in the past. Let´s see some examples:

  • There was a cat on the roof.
  • There was a big storm last night.
  • There was a problem with the computer.

2. There were: Used when referring to plural subjects or items in the past. Example sentences:

    • There were many people at the party.
    • There were three books on the table.
    • There were several mistakes in the report.

    Both “there was” and “there were” are often used to set the scene or describe a situation in narratives or when recounting past events. The choice between them depends on whether the subject is singular or plural.

    Image by Alexander from Pixabay

    We use “there was” to talk about something that existed in the past and was singular. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

    • Singular nouns: Use “there was” with nouns that refer to one person, place, or thing.
      • There was a cloud in the sky yesterday. (singular noun: cloud)
      • There was a party on our street last weekend. (singular noun: party)
      • There was a chance you might see a shooting star last night. (singular noun: chance)
    • Noncount nouns: You can also use “there was” with uncountable nouns (things you can’t count individually) to refer to a specific amount or instance of that thing.
      • There was a lot of traffic on the road during rush hour. (uncountable noun: traffic)
      • There was some milk left in the fridge this morning. (uncountable noun: milk)
      • There was very little time to spare before the deadline. (uncountable noun: time). 

    Here are some things to keep in mind:

    • Negative sentences: To say something wasn’t there in the past, use “there wasn’t” or “there wasn’t any” before the noun.
      • There wasn’t anyone at home when I arrived.
      • There wasn’t any bread left at the bakery.
    • Questions: To ask if something existed in the past, use “Was there…?”
      • Was there a movie on TV last night?
      • Was there enough food for everyone at the picnic?

    We use “there were” to talk about something that existed in the past and that refers to more than one person or thing. Here’s a breakdown:

    • Singular vs Plural:
      • Use “there was” when referring to one person/thing (e.g., There was a cat on the mat).
      • Use “there were” when referring to more than one person/thing (e.g., There were many cats on the mats).
    • Examples:
      • There were cookies on the plate yesterday (plural cookies).
      • There were a lot of people at the party last night (plural people).
      • There were thunderstorms throughout the week (plural thunderstorms).

    Here are some additional points to consider:

    • Negative Sentences:
      • You can use “there weren’t” for negation (e.g., There weren’t any cookies left).
    • Questions:
      • To ask a question about something that existed in the past, use “Were there…?” (e.g., Were there any questions?).

    I hope this explanation helps!

    Check out how to use: What versus which.

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