I'm having a hard time choosing which word to choose, was or were.

For example,


They were feeling joyful ever since she came back.


Chris and his friends was feeling joyful ever since Jennifer came back.

Another example,


I pity the animals sent to space for their sacrifice were needed whether human astronauts could survive in space.


I pity Laika and all the other mentionable animals for their sacrifice was needed whether human astronauts could survive in space.

Do subjects and proper nouns have anything to do with choosing which words to use? Please explain the difference between the two words.

  • "Their sacrifice was needed to test whether human astronauts could survive..." Oct 8 '21 at 8:20
  • Yes, I was thinking about that word just after randomhead posted his answer. Oct 8 '21 at 8:23

"Was" and "were" are the past tense forms of the irregular verb to be:

Person Singular Plural
First I was we were
Second you were you (all) were
Third he/she/it was they were

In your first example the subject is "They" or "Chris and his friends." Look at the table: were is correct and was is incorrect.

In your second example the relevant subject is "sacrifice." Look at the table: were is incorrect and was is correct.

Note however that there are multiple errors in your second example sentence, and if they were corrected than the verb would actually be "were."

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