Which word combo should I use, "there are" or "there is?" ... that is the question.
When I perform copyedits, I notice that many of my authors get tripped up when choosing between starting their sentence with "there are" or "there is." Many would say this is incorrect. It's not but it can be hard to know which one to choose.
And today, that is the question.
The Short Answer:
Use "is" if the noun is singular
Use "are" if the noun is plural or there is more than one noun.
The Long Answer AKA why this choice is even tricky:
When you use "there" at the beginning of a sentence, it does not follow the subject-verb sentence structure we all naturally use (Ex: Terri is going shopping). "There" is a verb, so when it starts the sentence as the verb it's creating a verb-subject sentence structure, which is referred to as an expletive sentence.
So how do you remember this? With a few key points:
Point 1: The subject of a sentence drives your verb choice, even if the subject isn't at the beginning of the sentence. (Ex: There are crayons on the floor.) The subject is crayons not "there" even though it comes before the verb "are."
Point 2: Plural subjects take plural verbs. The example above applies here: "There are crayons on the floor." And if the subject was first it would be, "Crayons are on the floor." If it was a singular subject it would be, "A crayon is on the floor."
Point 3: (JOKING—lesson over) And if you're like me, then what you really want after reading all of that is the simplest way to decide: 😉
Identify the subject of the sentence.
Ask yourself if the subject is singular or plural.
Remember, plural subjects take plural verbs. "Are" is plural and "is" is singular.
Jot it down and reference it. (I save things like this in the Evernote app). A little known fact is that editors have their dictionaries and style guides out at all times. We also can't remember it all!
I hope this was insightful for you and that you will apply the questions (or come back to this blog post 😉) the next time you need to choose.
Peace & Light,