English - Etymology
From Middle English was, from Old English wæs, from Proto-Germanic *was, (compare Scots was, Dutch was, Low German was, German war, Swedish var), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂wes- (“to reside”). The paradigm of "to be" has been since the time of Proto-Germanic a synthesis of three originally distinct verb stems. The infinitive form be is from Proto-Indo-European *bʰew- (“to become”). The words is and are are both derived from Proto-Indo-European *h₁es- (“to be”). Lastly, the past forms starting with w- such as was and were are from Proto-Indo-European *h₂wes- (“to reside”).
English - Pronunciation
- (UK) enPR: wŏz, wŭz, IPA(key): /wɒz/, /wʌz/
- (US) enPR: wŭz, wŏz, IPA(key): /wʌz/, wɑz/
- Rhymes: -ʌz, -ɒz
English - Verb
- First-person singular simple past tense indicative of be.
- Third-person singular simple past tense indicative of be.
- (proscribed, dialect) Second-person singular simple past tense indicative of be.
- (colloquial) Second person plural simple past tense of be
Afrikaans - Verb
Dutch - Pronunciation
- IPA(key): /ʋɑs/
- Rhymes: -ɑs
Dutch - Etymology 1
Dutch - Etymology 2
Dutch - Etymology 3
Dutch - Anagrams
German - Alternative Forms
German - Etymology
German - Pronunciation
- IPA(key): /vas/
- Rhymes: -as
German - Pronoun
- (interrogative) what
- (relative) which (referring to the entire preceding clause)
- (relative) that, which (referring to das, alles, etwas, nichts, and neuter substantival adjectives)
- (relative, colloquial) that, which (referring to neuter singular nouns, instead of standard das)
- (indefinite, colloquial) something, anything (instead of standard etwas)
- Was is invariable. The genitive case, and the dative case if necessary for clearness, can be paraphrased by means of welcher Sache (“what thing”). Possessive genitives are more commonly paraphrased with wovon (“of what”).
- The colloquial was meaning "something" can only be the first word in a sentence if followed by an adjective: Was Wichtiges fehlt noch. – "Something important is missing." Otherwise the full form etwas must be used: Etwas fehlt noch. – "Something is missing." The reason for this is that the latter sentence could be misinterpreted as a question if was were used.
- Was is not commonly used with prepositions. It is replaced with pronominal adverbs containing wo-. Hence: Womit hast du das gemacht? – "With what did you do that?" Colloquially, this rule is occasionally disregarded: Mit was hast du das gemacht?.
German - Adverb
Low German - Verb
- first-person singular simple past indicative of węsen
- third-person singular simple past indicative of węsen
- apocopated form of wasse (“wash”), second-person singular imperative of wassen (mainly used in the Netherlands, equivalent to other dialects' wasche/waske)
- apocopated form of wasse (“wax”), second-person singular imperative of wassen
- apocopated form of wasse (“grow”), second-person singular imperative of wassen
Notes on the verb węsen (to be): In recent times (~1800) the old subjunctive wer is used in place of was by many speakers. This might be the old subjunctive which is now used as a preterite or a reduction of weren, which is the preterite plural indicative of the verb. It might also be an imitation of the High German cognate war. Many smaller dialectal clusters do this, but no dialect does it. That means: even though there are many regions within e.g. Lower Saxony that use wer for was, maybe even the majority, there is no straight connection between them, i.e. which form is used can depend on preference, speaker and specific region. Due to this "one town this way, one town that way"-nature of the situation no form can be named "standard" for a greater dialect, such as Low Saxon.
Lower Sorbian - Pronunciation
- IPA(key): [was]
Lower Sorbian - Pronoun
Polish - Pronunciation
- IPA(key): [vas̪]
Polish - Pronoun
Tok Pisin - Verb
- angel; any supernatural creature in
heaven according to Christian theology
1989, Buk Baibel long Tok Pisin, Bible Society of Papua New Guinea, Genesis 3:24 (translation here):
- God i rausim pinis man na meri, na em i makim ol strongpela ensel bilong sanap na was i stap long hap sankamap bilong gaden Iden. Na tu em i putim wanpela bainat i gat paia i lait long en na i save tanim tanim long olgeta hap. Oltaim ol dispela ensel wantaim dispela bainat i save was i stap, nogut wanpela man i go klostu long dispela diwai bilong givim laip.
- 1989, Buk Baibel long Tok Pisin, Bible Society of Papua New Guinea, Genesis 3:24 (translation here):