One of the biggest problems English learners face is pronouncing words that look or sound similar to each other – were and where, for example. I know that my students sometimes have difficulty hearing the difference between similarly pronounced words, and get them easily confused with each other, even though the meanings are usually very different.
Some of the most easily confused words to pronounce are were and where, as well as we’re and wear. They can be especially tricky because they look and sound similar to each other. We want to clear up the differences between them, so read on to find out more!
We’re is a contraction of “we are” and should be used when talking about something that you are doing with other people. It’s pronounced using two syllables- we/re and rhymes with beer, here, and near, so make sure to say “we” first before the “errr” sound at the end.
Sometimes when we’re is said by native speakers, it can sound the same as were, so listen for the rest of the sentence to figure out which one the speaker means!
- We’re going to the movies tonight. Would you like to come?
- We’re taking a vacation next week, so we won’t be around for a few days.
- We’re having dinner then, but we could come by after!
Were is the past tense of “to be.” It is used with we, you (singular), we, and you (plural). We pronounce it with one syllable, and make a long r sound so it rhymes with her, sir, and purr.
Were, while sometimes pronounced the same and spelled similarly as we’re, has a completely different meaning.
- What were you doing yesterday?
- We were exploring together on Saturday.
- Were you going to go to the store? We need more milk.
In English, you can usually easily identify “question words” in a sentence because they start with W- and come at the beginning of a sentence. Where is one of these question words (the others are what, why, when, who, and how, which is the exception to the rule).
Where is pronounced just the same as wear (see below). It rhymes with dare, share, care, and air.
Where is the question word to use when you want to know the location of something or someone, or asking for directions to a location. How can you remember that where is a question word? Well, the word where has the word HERE in it. Additionally, if you pronounce were and where the same way, try saying them with the above tips a few times, and see if you can hear the difference!
- Where are my keys? They are here!
- Where are we going for dinner on Saturday?
- Where is my necklace? It’s over here on the table.
Even though wear is pronounced exactly the same as where, it is really a different word altogether. Wear is a verb, and has two different meanings.
The first meaning refers to clothes, accessories, or equipment (like a cell phone) that you carry on your body. The second meaning refers to something being used so much that it no longer works. This meaning usually has “out” attached to the end.
- What should I wear to the party tonight?
- I wear my Doc Martens every day.
- May people wear casual clothes to the office?
- People used to tell me that reading would wear out my eyes.
- I’m afraid that my computer will wear out soon.
- He doesn’t want the battery to wear out on his phone.
Do you have any handy tips and tricks to remember the difference between the words were and where, as well as we’re and wear, and how to pronounce them? Share them with other language learners in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and wants to know where you were when we were talking about what we’re going to wear next week! (How did you do??)
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