Author Topic: Was or were?  (Read 485 times)

Offline Shortcross

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Was or were?
« on: December 07, 2017, 02:59:50 AM »
Can't work it out! Is it was or were?

Inside the bag was his camera, a set of keys, his running shoes and a change of clothes.
Inside the bag were his running shoes, a set of keys, a camera and a change of clothes.

It feels like if the first item on the list is plural, then 'were', otherwise 'was'. But that can't be right as I'll then be referring to singular items further into the list as 'were'.

Stuck! :)


JewelAS53

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Re: Was or were?
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2017, 07:42:02 AM »
Could be related to my side of the pond and time zone, but I would do it like so:
Inside the bag were his camera, a set of keys, his running shoes and a change of clothes.

That there is a list makes the contents in total, plural.
To me.

Maybe flip it around?
His camera, a set of keys, his running shoes and a change of clothes were all inside the bag.
A set of keys, his running shoes, a change of clothes and his camera were all inside the bag.

Offline Simple Things

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Re: Was or were?
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2017, 09:36:44 AM »
I think you are over-thinking this. A reader will skim right through.

That said. Why are drawing the items inside the bag to the reader? Do they have a purpose later on? Or are they just items?

I only ask this because it gives to me about the only difference 'was' and 'were' would make.

If I wanted the reader to purposely remember the items for later, then I would use 'was' as a singular pause on each item is given. (the comma gives another type of pause).

If I wanted just to show the bag is either empty or full, then I would use 'were' to give a collective visual, not really showing the items but rather the focus would be on the capacity of the bag(in possible relation to the state of mind)

eh there so many reasons, but normally a reader will catch on regardless, because a story isn't made of only one sentence standing without support from others. :)

Write on.

Jo Bannister

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Re: Was or were?
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2017, 09:49:58 AM »
Definitely "were".  Would only be "was" if you structured it differently -  "Inside the bag was his camera, along with the items he needed for his run."

And it needs to be right because any editor worth his/her salt would flag it up as a CAA - Crap Author Alert.

graphophobia

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Re: Was or were?
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2017, 04:51:47 PM »
Another vote for 'were'.

Offline Shortcross

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Re: Was or were?
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2017, 03:29:28 AM »
Thanks for the advice! I'll go with 'were' then, but I think I'll begin the list with a plural ('cos it still sounds funny in my head if 'were' is next to a singular). I'm sure they didn't teach me this stuff at school... :)

Shorty

hillwalker3000

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Re: Was or were?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2017, 08:33:19 AM »
I'll begin the list with a plural ('cos it still sounds funny in my head if 'were' is next to a singular).

Definitely 'were' - but it reads like a back-to-front sentence the way it's worded. Maybe replace 'was/were' with 'lay'??

H3K

Offline Shortcross

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Re: Was or were?
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2017, 02:32:16 PM »
Thanks Hilly - good idea...