Was vs Were and Saw vs Seen

This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
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Was vs Were and Saw vs Seen

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Feb 09, 1999 12:00 am

I just need to know when to use saw or seen and when to use was or were. If you could give me a few examples I would appreciate it.

Thanks,
Tonja
Submitted by Tonja Workman (Houston - U.S.A.)
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Was vs Were and Saw vs Seen

Post by Jonathon Green » Tue Feb 09, 1999 8:00 am

I quote the Bloomsbury Good Word Guide:

was or were: difficulty is sometimes experinced in the use of the subjunctive form 'were' in phrases expressing supposition. The basic rule is that 'were' is used when the suggestion is of something hypothetical, unlikely, or not actually the case. When a supposition might be possible or factual then either 'was' or 'were' may be used.

As for 'saw' and 'seen', I am not sure what is the confusion. They are virtually synonymous: 'I saw'/'I have seen' mean much the same; however one must not forget the 'have'. 'I seen' is dialectal.
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