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According to the British Library site, the use of nonstandard forms of past tense expressions like we was are common in some English dialects

The verb 'to be' has two simple past forms in Standard English - I/he/she/it was and you/we/they were. Apart from the special case of you, the distinction is, therefore, between singular was and plural were.

In some regional dialects, however, this pattern is not observed. In some parts of the country, speakers use was throughout, while speakers elsewhere use were exclusively. There are also dialects where the two different forms are used for the opposite function - singular were and plural was.

Usage examples are not hard to find in print:

1) What we was after was a couple of noble big di'monds as big as hazel-nuts, which everybody was running to see. We was dressed up fine, and ... - Tom Sawyer, Detective by Mark Twain

2) And we was in the lifeboat —I'd say about nine days. While we was in the lifeboat a German submarine surfaced. That's why I thought we might've got torpedoed too. - From Merchant Marine Survivors of World War II: Oral Histories of Cargo

3) We was on the come up. We all brought cars with the money we had stashed and the money we was making off the coke we was moving. - Lust, Money, Envy

but probably the more memorable usage was by George Harrison in the sound titled When we was fab.

enter image description here (Discogs.com)

Questions:

1) where in the UK is this dialectal usage present?

2) what is the origin of this usage? An old usage survived from Middle English for instance?

3) is the above usage present also in dialectal forms of AmE?

  • Related answer: english.stackexchange.com/a/55459/77227 – sumelic Nov 12 '18 at 22:31
  • Losing present tense inflections is a normal levelling in English. We've already lost the plural (except for be), and the first and second person singular (again except for be), so regularizing was to all subjects, or using be for the same purpose, is the kind of thing that happens all the time in English lects. Ask a sociolinguist about dialect maps; and get used to the idea that this is a percentage game -- people in one area in one social group may use it 15% of the time, but a different social group in the same place or the same one in a different place might do it 40% of the time. – John Lawler Nov 12 '18 at 23:19
  • All three of your usage examples are from the US. – Laurel Nov 13 '18 at 5:02

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