Difference between Where and Were

Updated on March 27, 2017

The words “where” and “were” are two of the most commonly confused words in the English language. They not only have almost the same spelling, but many people also think they have the same pronunciation. If you are confused when to use “where” and “were,” this article is for you.



The word where (rhymes with hair) talks about a place, location, stage, or situation. It is:

  • An interrogative adverb – It is used to ask a question about a place; for example: Where is the library?
  • A relative adverb – It is used as a point of reference; for example: I saw him at Macy’s, where I work as a manager.
  • A conjunction – “Where” means “in the place that” or “in situations that”; for example: Where you find the flowers, you also find the bees.
  • A relative pronoun – It introduces a relative clause; for example: The house where Marsha grew up was recently sold for $500,000.

On the other hand, were (rhymes with stir) is the past tense of the verb “be.” It is used together with a plural subject. Let us take a look at a few examples below:

  • Five students were sent to Japan for the robotics competition last month.
  • What were you reading last night?

“Were” is also used when talking about an imaginary or unrealistic situation in conditional statements even with a singular subject. For example:

  • If I were Beyonce, I would hide my child from the public until she turns 18 years old.
  • Jenny would give free meals to all homeless people if she were the president. She mentioned that in her speech yesterday.

Where vs Were

What, then, is the difference between “where” and “were”?

In terms of pronunciation, “where” rhymes with “hair,” while “were” rhymes with “stir.”

When it comes to function, “where” is more versatile than “were.” “Where” is an adverb, conjunction, and a pronoun that talks about a point of reference, a location, or a situation. “Were,” on the other hand, is the plural and past form of the verb “be.” It is also used as a verb in unreal or imaginary conditional statements.

Comparison Chart

Rhymes with “hair”Rhymes with “stir”
Functions as an adverb, conjunction, and pronounFunctions as a verb (past tense of “be”) and is used for plural subjects and in imaginary conditional statements