Are vs Were – What’s the difference?

It is easy to confuse some English words and face their complexities while using them. English is a tough language and in order to excel at it, learning a few basics is very important.

When we talk about basics, knowing the difference between the words “are” and “were” is important. If you are familiar with the difference between is” and “was then you are one step closer.

List of Homophones | Homophones Exa...
List of Homophones | Homophones Examples

Let us get to details and get a hold of their meanings and usage.

Are vs Were – Difference

Both the terms “are” and “were” are forms of the verb “to be“. The verb “to be” expresses the meaning of existing or to exist. Both “are” and “were” are generally used when there is more than one object or person present.

But the major difference between “are” and “were” is that “are” is the present form of the verb “to be” and “were” is the past form.


Are” is used when we are referring to the verb “to be” in the present tense and with a second person or third-person plural pronouns. It means we are indicating something that is happening currently or at the speaking moment. “Are” usually acts as an auxiliary verb forming sentences in the present continuous tense.

Another important use of “are” is to describe or express a state or a characteristic that exists in the present or is still a reality.

Let us look at some examples;

  • You are writing to your mom.
  • They are not finalizing the matter.

The use of “are” forms the sentences in present continuous tense that describes something that is happening at the moment.

  • They are a good team.

Here, “are” describes a state that is still a reality.


When we are using the word “were”, we are still indicating the verb “to be” but in the past tense. The word “were” is also used with first person plural, second-person and third-person plural pronouns. But it differs from “are” as we use “were” when indicating something that has already taken place or is no longer in the process, while “are” is an ongoing thing. Since “were” is also an auxiliary word, it is used to form past continuous tense.

Were” is also used to describe a state or a condition, but it is in the past form. That means the person or the thing no longer exhibits those characteristics or that state.

For example;

  • They were not playing very well.
  • You were not there last night.
  • They were not okay with the decision.

Subjunctive mood

Another important difference between “were” and “are” is the use of subjunctive mood.

Were” is usually used in a subjunctive tense when someone is talking about something that is not real or is hypothetical in nature. While “are” usually describes statements that have reasons to be true.

Let us understand with an example;

  • If I were to go home, I would never return.

Here we can see, “were” is used to indicate something that is not real. It is just a thought process, a subjunctive mood. Such subjunctive constructions are usually accompanied with if or wish.

Thus, we see that both the words can cause errors in your sentences if not applied and used correctly. So it becomes necessary to learn their basic differences and usage.

Leave a Comment