Wear, Were, We're, or Where?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Wear," "Were," "We're," and "Where"?

"Wear," "were," "we're," and "where" are easy to confuse. They sound similar, but their meanings are very different.

Here's the quick answer: "Wear" means to have clothing on or to deteriorate. "Were" is the past tense of are. "We're" is a short for we are. "Where" is a place.

Click to hear how "wear," "were," "we're," and "where" are pronounced. (Notice that "wear" and "where" are perfect homonyms because they sound identical.)

Examples with "Wear," "Were," "We're," and "Where"

  • To Wear. "To wear" has two meanings: (1) to have clothing on, and (2) to deteriorate. For example:
    • I want to wear my new dress. correct tick
    • The machine will wear a hole in my jeans. correct tick
  • Wear. "Wear" is a noun associated with each of the above meanings. For example:
    • It is formal wear for the party. correct tick
    • Look at the wear on this screw. correct tick
  • Were. "Were" is the past tense version of "are." For example:
    • They were happy, but now they are ecstatic. correct tick
  • We're. "We're" is a short for "we are." For example:
    • We're going home now. correct tick
  • Where. "Where" refers to a place. For example:
    • I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're going and hook up with them later. correct tick (Comedian Mitch Hedberg)
wear, we're, were, and where

Wear

The verb "to wear" means to be adorned with clothing, decoration, or protection. It also means to cause deterioration or damage by continuous use or friction. (The word "wear" can also be used as a noun.)

Example sentences with "wear":
  • I wear a necklace because I want to know when I'm upside down. correct tick (Comedian Mitch Hedberg)
  • (Here, "wear" means to have clothing or decoration on.)
  • Our constancy was necessary to wear down the oppressive forces of the old democracy. correct tick (Novelist Federica Montseny)
  • (Here, "wear" means to cause deterioration. It is being used figuratively in this example.)
  • This heavy-duty wear is showing signs of wear. correct tick
  • (Here, the first "wear" means clothing and the second means deterioration. They are both nouns.)

Were

"Were" is one the past forms of the verb "to be." Look at this table:
PronounPersonVerb "To Be" in Past Tense
IFirst person singularwas
YouSecond person singularwere
He/She/ItThird person singularwas
WeFirst person pluralwere
YouSecond person pluralwere
TheyThird person plural were

"Were" is also the subjunctive form of "was." For example:
  • If you were right, I'd have agreed with you. correct tick (Actor Robin Williams)

We're

"We're" is a contraction of "we are." For example:
  • Individually, we're one drop. Together, we're an ocean. correct tick (Writer Ryunosuke Satoro)

Where

The adverb "where" is used to refer to a place. For example:
  • A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain. correct tick (Poet Robert Frost)
  • Where there is love there is life. correct tick (Indian statesman Mahatma Gandhi)

What Part of Speech Is "Where"?

"Where" refers to a place. Grammatically, "where" can play one of three roles in a sentence:

(1) "Where" is an interrogative adverb:
  • Where are you going?
  • ("Where" can be used to ask a question about a place.)
Read more about interrogative adverbs.

(2) "Where" is a relative adverb:
  • It is the building where we met Janice.
  • ("Where" can be used to head a relative clause. Here, the relative clause is shaded. It modifies "building.")
Read more about relative adverbs.

"Where" is a subordinating conjunction:
  • Where two people remain, the winner is the person with the most money.
  • ("Where" can be used to head a dependent clause. Here, the dependent clause is shaded.)
Note: This is an unusual use of "where." It translates best as "in situations when." Often it can be replaced with "when," particularly if "at times when" is a better fit. Read more about subordinating conjunctions.

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