Confused Words: Where, Were, We’re, Wear, Ware, Weir, Whir

Were Where You When I Called? — Huh? Wear Confused

by Owen Fourie

What the ____? All these words beginning with ‘W’—what’s happening here?

The impetus for this article came from an item dealing with content inspiration where I read the following statement:

Expect to find the ideas in every aspect of life and you will discover that your ideas where right there in plain view all along.

Do you see the error? It’s a good statement, but it contains an error that is occurring quite frequently in writing today. Somehow, the word where is being used for were, a linking verb in the above instance. Here is the correction:

Expect to find the ideas in every aspect of life and you will discover that your ideas were right there in plain view all along.

It is necessary to pay careful attention to the differences between words especially when there is a group of words that can be confused, such as the title of this article indicates.

Where and were do not qualify as homophones. They do not sound alike. Other words listed here do sound the same or similar: where, we’re, wear, ware, and, possibly, weir.

Were has its sound-alike word in whir (whirr is the British spelling).

Were and we’re sound similar in some American speech.

Brief definitions of these words


Where refers to place or position. Where is your dictionary? Here’s a memory trick to help you to use where correctly: where contains the word here which also refers to place.


Were is part of the be-verb family: am, is, are, was, were, been, being, be.

  • The boys were ecstatic. Here, were is used as a linking verb. It links the subject, boys, to the description of the subject, ecstatic.
  • They were singing. Here, were is used as a helping verb for the main verb, singing, indicating the time of the action.

Were contains ere. Ere is a poetic word used for before, so it speaks of time too. This is simply a trick to help you to distinguish between were and where.


We’re is a contraction for “we are.”

  • We are going to town.
  • We’re going to town.


  • You wear shorts in summer.
  • The shoe designer was working on a new kind of footwear.


  • She polished her silverware.
  • They discussed the new software for her computer.
  • I bought a new set of tools at the hardware store.


The weir across that stream helps the hydrology students to measure the rate of flow.


Whir (or whirr) is an onomatopoeic word. Onomatopoeia is the use of words that imitate the sounds made by various objects:

  • Meow! Boom! Bang! – Ooh, heck! I shot the cat! 🙁
  • The whir of the air conditioning system made it difficult for him to hear what the boy was saying (about the cat).

Try this!

Supply the correct words in place of the numbers in the following passage. Choose from the seven words discussed in this article.

I hardly heard them above the (1) of the ceiling fans when they said, “(2) going to town this afternoon.” I know they (3) quite determined to go to a store (4) they would find suitable shoes to (5) on their walking tour—shoes that would not (6) out quickly. I heard later that while they (7) in town, they decided to go to the hard(8) store, too. Later, they told me that on their way back they saw the water plunging over the (9) a little faster than usual. I thought about this for a moment and then I recalled that our stream flowed from a catchment area (10) there had been a lot of rain, recently.

Did you choose correctly?

(1) whir; (2) We’re; (3) were; (4) where; (5) wear; (6) wear; (7) were; (8) hardware; (9) weir; (10) where

Correcting the subtitle

Here is the corrected subtitle for this article:

Where Were You When I Called? — Huh? We’re Confused

Really? There should be no more confusion.


Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome. Are you struggling with confused words or any other aspect of grammar and correct usage? Ask here for clarification.

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