Was and Were

Posted on Mar 20 2019 - 3:42pm by Zdenda

The verb to BE in the past tense is one of the most important grammar points in English. As both WAS and WERE belong among 100 most frequent words in English, it is paramount that students know and use them correctly.


In this post, I would like to share a set of activities I use to teach this grammar point. There is a nice communicative activity to introduce the meaning of the verb. Then there is an infographic and a video to teach the form of the verb. And at the end, there is a worksheet where students can learn to form questions and the short answers.

Was Were – introduction

I always start the lesson with the following activity. Students work in pairs. I print the following worksheet and cut it. In each pair, one student has a worksheet A and the other has the worksheet B. They must not show their worksheet to anyone. They read the sentences and their partner has to guess if the sentence is true or not. They count how many correct answers their partner gives.

Then I explain the grammar and usage of the verbs WAS and WERE using the following infographic:

Then I practise the verbs using the following video. Students watch the video and read the sentences using WAS or WERE. If they make a mistake, I stop the video.

I sometimes challenge a student and he/she tries to say all the sentences correctly on their own. Or I make teams, put the students in line in front of the screen and students have to take turns and say the sentences. The team that survives the longest without making a mistake are the winners.

To teach questions and the short answers I use the following worksheet. I use tables and various colours to make my students think about the way to create questions. The rules for the worksheet are simple. The same colour means that that you have to use the same word. A varied shade of the colour means that you use a pronoun, but a different one.