"Were" vs "was" on Downton Abbey

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BobbieCB

Member
English - USA Midwest & Southern
I've noticed on the BBC series Downton Abbey, a number of the characters use "were" when they should use "was."

Example #1 -- "He were doing it for himself, that's my thought."
Example #2 -- "It weren't like that, not at all."

The characters speaking this way are the "downstairs" actors, representing the uneducated common folk of the period 1912 - 1925 or so.

Is this considered unacceptable or incorrect British English?

Do people in the U.K. still engage in this usage today?

Thank you for your replies.
 
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Simplification of the past tense in this way is still very common in the vernacular in England. My impression is that
    - in London you are more likely to hear I was, you was, he was, we was
    - in the north of England you are more likely to hear I wo, you wo, he wo, we wo (pronounced with the same vowel as was).

    Standard written BE is the same as standard written AE in this area.

    PS The Wikipedia article on Multicultural London English says
    The past tense of the verb "to be" is regularised, with "was" becoming universal for all conjugations, and "weren't" likewise for negative conjugations. This leaves "I was, you was, he was" etc., and "I weren't, you weren't, he weren't" etc
    Multicultural London English - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
    Last edited:

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It's common in some parts of the UK.

    It's perfectly acceptable when spoken by someone for whom that dialect is natural, but would be considered wrong if spoken by others.

    And yes, some people still engage in this behaviour.
     

    BobbieCB

    Member
    English - USA Midwest & Southern
    Thank you both so much. My friends and I have been learning BE from Downton and no one could figure this out. Thanks again.
     
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