Was and were are past forms of the verb be, an irregular verb that is extremely common.
We use was in the first person singular (I) and the third person singular (he, she, it):
I was tired and sat down in my favorite armchair. She was in the kitchen when there was a knock on the door. It was the first Tuesday in April.
The other persons take the form were:
Were you happy with the result? We were together. They were down by the river.
Was and were are also auxiliary verbs, that is, they are followed by another verb:
I was having a nap when you called. Was he really doing that? I thought you were going to help her.
It is possible to use were also with I, he, she and it. We do so in situations that are not real. It can be a hypothetical situation (usually with the word if):
Even if he were my boss, I wouldn’t do it. If I were you, I would definitely accept the offer. If this were true, you could stay there for a whole month.
It can be wishful thinking:
I wish I were in Rome again. How I wish that she were here!
This form of the verb is called the subjunctive mood. The were form with you, we and they is also subjunctive in hypothetical or counterfactual statements, even if it does not differ from the indicative form used in ordinary sentences:
If they were younger, I would offer them a job (subjunctive). They were already there when I arrived (indicative).
You should avoid writing *I wish that she was here. (For the use of the asterisk, read at the end of this text.)
When two or more words are combined to form a new concept with a new meaning, we talk about a compound.
A compound can be a combination of a noun and a noun (school nurse), an adjective and a noun (full moon), an adverb and a verb (far-reaching), a verb and an adverb (check-up), a preposition and a noun (underworld), a preposition and a verb (overestimate), an adjective and another adjective (blue-green) – and a few more combinations.
In English there are three ways to write compound words: as separate words (open compounds), as one word (closed compounds) or as words combined with a hyphen (hyphenated compounds). This can sometimes be rather confusing. We write head office as separate words, we write head-teacher with a hyphen and we write headmaster as one word. Likewise we have table knife but tablespoon.
This may seem frustrating, and if you are in doubt, you had better check a dictionary or a style sheet. (Actually, you can also write stylesheet. Some compounds can take any of the three forms. You can write life style, life-style or lifestyle.)
Unlike some other languages – German, Swedish or Finnish, for example – English often does not combine the separate words into one word. A breakfast table is in German Frühstückstisch; a hotel room is in Swedish hotellrum; a taxi driver is in Finnish taksinkuljettaja.
Here are some examples of open compounds in English:
The following are examples of compounds written in one word:
Compounds with words from Latin or Greek are written as one word:
Many compounds – especially those formed by two nouns – used to be hyphenated, but now most of them are written either as one word or two separate words. Here are some compounds that are still hyphenated (and you will notice that they are generally not of the noun+noun type):
Compounds with three or more words are usually written with hyphens:
Compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine are hyphenated:
My dad is forty-two.
Fractions also take a hyphen:
We had already driven two-thirds of the way. Less than one-fifth of the operators are women.
But with a instead of one there is no hyphen:
Less than a fifth of the operators are women.
Some compounds have changed from being hyphenated to a single word. We used to write on-line and world-wide, but nowadays online and worldwide are more common. This also applies to words such as cooperate and proactive.
To avoid confusion, a hyphen is used when the prefix ends and the base word begins with the same vowel:
COMPUNDS AS MODIFIERS
When compounds are used as modifiers, they are written with a hyphen. A modifier works as an adjective or adverb to add information about the word directly following it.
A six-year-old boy. But: The boy was six years old.
We rely on just-in-time delivery. But: I arrived just in time. The clock struck three when I opened the door.
Affect and effect are two words that easily get mixed up
Affect is mainly used as a verb. It means have an impact on, have an effect on. The bad weather affected our plans for the evening. The old man was visibly affected by the girl’s kind words. How will the strike affect your job?
Affect can also have the meaning pretend to be or have.
I don’t like how he affects a British accent.
Effect is a noun. It denotesthe result of an action oran impression. The effect of his words was immediate. I liked the sound effects in the film. The law is still in effect.
To sum up, most often affect is a verb and effect is a noun.
That said, you may – on rare occasions – find affect used as a noun. Then it means something that acts on something else, usually in psychological jargon.
And effect can be used as a verb meaning to produce, bring about something new, often in phrases like ”to effect a change”
In British English some nouns end in -ice and the corresponding verbs in -ise:
licence/license (without the i)
In American English noun and verb have the same form; the s is retained in license/license, and the c in practice/practice.
Some words take the same form as verb and noun:
Disguise, exercise, franchise, invoice, merchandise, notice, promise, sacrifice, slice, surprise
Service is a noun but it also functions as a verb: I need to service my car. However, the word has taken on a sexual connotation and you should avoid using it as a verb with one or more persons as direct object. Use serve, help, aid or assist instead.
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