How to use there was and there were in the Past tense

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Do you remember There is and There are? We use them to express existence in present.

Clarification about there was and there were

There is a bus every hour.
The time now is 10:30.
There was a bus at 10:00.
It means that: “there was” is the past of “there is”. And “there were” is the past of “there are”.

When to use there was & there were?

  • We use there was, and there were to say something exists or doesn’t exist in the past.
  • we use there was for a singular object and there were for plural objects, in the past tense.
  • We use There was when we refer to one thing or person.
  • We use There were when we refer to more than one thing or person.

Positive Statements with There Was and There Were

There was, or, there were, + Complement.

There was and There were Examples:

  • There was nothing on TV last night.
  • There was a good film on TV last night.
  • There were some flowers on the table.
  • There was a big tree in the garden.
  • There was a grocery store right there.
  • There was a cup of coffee on the table.
  • There were 4 cars in the street last night.
  • There were 7 students failed the class.
  • There was a fire in the town center.
  • There were many people at the restaurant.
  • There was a bird on the roof this morning.
  • I’m sorry I’m late. There was a lot of traffic.
  • There was a clock on the wall near the window.
  • There were 15 tables in the classroom last month.
  • There were fire engines and police cars everywhere.
  • There were three pictures on the wall near the door.
  • There was a party at the club last Friday, but I didn’t go.
  • When we arrived at the theatre, there was a long queue outside.
  • We stayed at a very big hotel. There were more than 400 rooms.
  • There were ten people injured and there was a lot of building damage.
  • 12 years ago, 700 students at the school. Now there are more than a thousand.

Negative Statements with There Was and There Were

There was not, or, there were not, + Complement.


There was not = There wasn’t.
There were not = there weren’t.

Negative Examples:

  • There wasn’t any sugar for my tea.
  • There wasn’t a square table in the store.
  • There wasn’t any furniture in the apartment.
  • There weren’t enough chairs in the restaurant.
  • There wasn’t any money in my purse yesterday.
  • We had to walk home because there was not a bus.
  • There weren’t any eggs for breakfast this morning.
  • There wasn’t anyone at the reception desk, so I left.
  • There weren’t many visitors in the park last weekend.
  • There were not many people who study French last year.
  • There weren’t any students in the classroom, it was empty.
  • There weren’t any eggs in the fridge, so I just had some coffee.
  • I was hungry when I got home, but there wasn’t anything to eat.
  • A few years ago, there weren’t so many teachers at this university.

Questions with There Was and There Were

Was or were + there + complement + question mark?.


  • Was there any milk left?
    Yes, there was.
  • Was there any juice left?
    No, there wasn’t.
  • Was there a dog in the park?
    Yes, there was.
  • Was there a lot of food at the party?
    Yes, there was.
  • Was there a fire downtown last night?
    Yes, there was.
  • Were there a lot of people at the party?
    Yes, there were.
  • Were there any chocolates in your bag?
    No, there weren’t.
  • Were there a lot of teachers at the school?
    No, there weren’t.
  • Were there many police officers around here?
    Yes, there were.
  • Were there many people working in the company?
    No, there weren’t.
  • Were there a lot of students on this website last week?
    No, there weren’t.
  • Were there dinosaurs in this forest?
    Yes, there were hundreds of years ago.

Questions with How Many?

  1. How many visitors were there in the park?
    There were about 25 visitors.
  2. How many colleagues were there in your work?
    There were 15 colleagues.
  3. How many foods were there in the restaurant?
    There were many foods.
  4. How many people were there in the playground?
    There were thousands.
  5. How many kids were there in the garden?
    There were 100 kids.
  6. How many workers were there in the building?
    There were more than 50.

Question tags with “there was” and “there were”

  • There was a good film on TV last week, wasn’t there?
  • There wasn’t any time to have a meeting, was there?
  • There were a lot of people here this morning, weren’t there?
  • There wasn’t any letter for me this morning, was there?
  • There wasn’t any time to go to the picnic, was there?

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