How to Use “Is” and “Are” Correctly, With Examples

Marcus Froland

Let’s talk about something that trips up a lot of English learners. It might seem simple at first glance, but the devil is in the details, right? That’s exactly the case with two of the most common verbs in the English language: “is” and “are.” You see them everywhere, from textbooks to billboards, and hearing them in conversations around you. But when it comes to using them correctly, well, that’s where things get a bit tricky.

Now, imagine you’re writing an email or chatting with a friend. You pause because you’re not quite sure whether to use “is” or “are” in your next sentence. Sound familiar? This happens to countless people every day. You want your English to sound smooth and natural, after all. Don’t worry; we’ve got your back on this one. By breaking down their usage with clear examples, you’ll be mastering these verbs in no time at all.

Using “is” and “are” correctly comes down to understanding singular and plural subjects. “Is” is used with a singular subject, while “are” is for plural subjects. For example, when talking about one book, you say “The book is on the table.” This is because ‘book’ is a singular noun. However, if there are multiple books, the sentence changes to “The books are on the table,” since ‘books’ is plural. It’s also important to note exceptions like the word “you,” which always takes “are” regardless of being single or plural as in “You are welcome.” Remembering this simple rule will help you use these words correctly.

Understanding the Basics of “Is” vs. “Are”

Mastering the usage of the present tense verbs “is” and “are” is an integral part of developing excellent English writing skills. These two forms belong to the irregular verb “be” and play a vital role in establishing proper subject-verb agreement. Knowing when to use “is” and “are” is a crucial aspect of solidifying your understanding of grammar basics and verb conjugation.

To use “is” and “are” correctly, it is essential to distinguish between singular and plural subjects. Typically, “is” is used with a singular third-person subject, whereas “are” is employed with plural subjects and the pronoun “you.” Let’s examine a couple of examples to further clarify this concept:

“The house is old” – In this sentence, “house” is a singular third-person subject, so “is” is the appropriate verb form.

“You are my best friend” – In this instance, “you” is the subject, necessitating the use of “are.”

Now that you understand the fundamental difference between “is” and “are,” let’s take a look at some common scenarios where distinguishing between singular and plural subjects becomes crucial for accurate verb conjugation:

  1. Regular nouns: Generally, when a subject is singular, it takes the verb “is.” Conversely, plural subjects require the verb “are.” For instance, “The cat is sleeping” (singular subject) and “The cats are sleeping” (plural subject).
  2. Irregular nouns: Some nouns have irregular plural forms, such as “man” (singular) and “men” (plural). These irregular nouns need to be treated with the appropriate verb form (“The man is strong” vs. “The men are strong”).
  3. Collective nouns: Collective nouns, like “team” or “family,” can sometimes be tricky — if the collective noun represents a single unit, we use “is,” while if it represents individual members within the group, we use “are” (“The team is ready for the game” vs. “The team members are wearing different uniforms”).

With a solid foundation in grammar basics and a comprehensive grasp of singular versus plural subjects, you will be well equipped to use “is” and “are” confidently and effectively in your writing.

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Using “Is” for Singular Subjects in a Sentence

When it comes to constructing a grammatically correct sentence, one crucial aspect to consider is the relationship between the subject and the verb. In this section, we’ll explore using the verb “is” with singular subjects, as well as highlight some real-world examples that demonstrate subject-verb consistency.

The Rule of Thumb for Singular Nouns

As a rule of thumb, always employ the verb “is” when dealing with singular nouns. This helps maintain consistency between the subject and verb, ensuring grammatically accurate sentences. For example:

There is a bridge in the park.

Notice that the subject “bridge” is a singular noun, so we use “is” as the correct verb form with it.

Handling Singular Collective Nouns

Singular collective nouns represent a group or a collection of entities that function as a single entity. In American English, when referring to these collective nouns as a unified entity, use “is” to maintain grammatical agreement. For instance:

The committee is considering the budget right now.

In this case, “committee” is a singular collective noun, signifying a group of people. However, because they are functioning as a single unit, we use “is” instead of “are.”

Examples Showcasing Singular Subjects with “Is”

Now let’s take a look at some additional sentences demonstrating the correct use of “is” with singular subjects:

  1. She is a carpenter.
  2. The sun is shining brightly.
  3. The baby is crying loudly.

These examples underscore the importance of understanding the rule of using “is” with singular nouns. Remember, consistency in subject-verb agreement is crucial for clear and effective communication, and knowing when to use “is” with singular subjects is an essential aspect of proper English grammar application.

The Correct Use of “Are” for Plural Subjects

When it comes to properly utilizing the verb form “are”, recognizing plural subjects is key. In the English language, plural subject agreement demands the use of “are” with all plural forms and the second person singular pronoun “you”. To help solidify your understanding, let’s look at various examples and contexts in which “are” should be applied for plural subject agreement.

In the example above, the noun “gorillas” is a plural subject and pairs with “are” to achieve grammatical harmony and convey the intended meaning. Similarly, observe the following examples:

  • The flowers are beautifully arranged.
  • You are doing a great job!
  • My friends are coming over tonight.
  • Tom and Jane are getting married.

Understanding different grammatical structures can assist you in accurately using “are” for plural noun verb usage. Some sentences may have subjects combined with conjunctions like “and” or “or”. Let’s examine how to manage these scenarios:

Conjunction Example
And Alex and Lisa are going for a walk.
Or (both subjects plural) Either the boys or the girls are responsible for the mess.
Or (one subject plural) Either the teacher or the students are to give a presentation.

Remember these guidelines for plural subject agreement and proper verb form usage when crafting sentences. By adhering to these rules, your English writing skills will improve, and your communication will become clearer and more effective.

When to Use “Is” with Collective Nouns

Collective nouns such as “committee” or “audience” often cause confusion when it comes to verb choice in English grammar. The key to using “is” or “are” correctly with collective nouns lies in the context and meaning behind the sentence. In this section, we will discuss when to use “is” with collective nouns to emphasize group unity and when to opt for “are” to emphasize individuals within the group.

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Emphasizing a Group as One Entity with “Is”

Using “is” with collective nouns highlights that the subject is a single, united entity. When the emphasis is on the group behaving as one unit, “is” should be the verb of choice. For instance, consider the following sentence: “The committee is considering the budget right now.” Here, “committee” represents a group of people acting as one collective unit to decide the budget. As such, “is” emphasizes the group’s unity and coherence.

Example: The family is gathering for a reunion.

In the example above, “family” is a collective noun, and the focus is on the entire group coming together as one, hence the usage of “is.”

When Collective Nouns Can Take “Are”

Switching the verb to “are” for collective nouns emphasizes the individual elements within the group. This verb choice is more appropriate when you want to highlight the separate actions or states of the individuals who are part of the collective. Take a look at the following example: “The couple are keeping secrets from each other.” In this case, “couple” is a collective noun, but the focus is on each person within the couple having their own secret. The use of “are” underscores their individuality.

  1. Incorrect usage: The team is having their separate opinions on the matter.
  2. Correct usage: The team are having their separate opinions on the matter.

In the sentences above, the first example sounds unnatural because the focus is on the individual opinions of the team members rather than the collective decision of the group. The use of “are” in the second sentence is grammatically correct because the individual opinions are emphasized.

In summary, when using collective nouns, pay attention to whether the context emphasizes group unity or the actions and states of individuals within the group. Choose your verb accordingly to convey the intended meaning and ensure proper subject-verb agreement.

Navigating “Is” and “Are” with Mass Nouns

When dealing with mass nouns in English, it’s essential to use the correct form of the verb “be” for proper sentence structure and clarity. A mass noun, also known as an uncountable noun, refers to an object or substance that cannot be counted directly, such as “sand” or “water.” In this section, we will discuss how to use “is” and “are” correctly with mass nouns to ensure proper subject-verb agreement.

Generally, mass nouns are treated as singular subjects. This means that they should be paired with “is” rather than “are.” The same rule applies regardless of whether you’re using American or British English. Let’s take a look at a few real-world examples:

Water is our most precious resource.

The information they gathered is crucial to our investigation.

Milk is a good source of calcium.

However, there are some instances where mass nouns can take the plural verb “are,” particularly when you want to emphasize the individual components within the mass. Here are some examples:

The different types of sand are fascinating to study.

The different sugars that people use are not created equal.

To simplify the process of determining verb usage with mass nouns, consider the following steps:

  1. Identify the mass noun: First and foremost, determine whether the noun in question is a mass noun. This step is crucial because mass nouns often require the singular verb “is.”
  2. Examine the context: If the sentence emphasizes the individual components within the mass or uses descriptive phrases such as “different types of” or “various kinds of,” then the plural verb “are” might be more appropriate.
  3. Apply the appropriate verb form: After identifying the mass noun and examining the context, use the correct form of “be” for your sentence.
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By following these simple steps, you can effectively navigate the correct use of “is” and “are” with mass nouns in English confidently. Remember, understanding and applying appropriate verb usage with mass nouns enhances the clarity and accuracy of your writing, making it more engaging and comprehensible for your readers.

“There Is” vs. “There Are”: Deciding Which to Use

In English grammar, the phrases “there is” and “there are” serve as sentence introductions. To choose the correct phrase, you need to assess whether the sentence contains a singular or plural noun. By understanding these fundamental grammar rules, your decision-making in grammar will improve, and your writing will benefit from determining the correct verb form in relation to singular versus plural nouns.

Introducing Sentences with “There Is” and “There Are”

Use “there is” when the noun following the phrase is singular, whereas “there are” is appropriate when the subsequent noun is plural. If you are unsure about the noun’s singularity, consider these examples:

  • “There is a fly in my soup” (singular noun).
  • “There are several flies in my soup” (plural noun).

The distinctions shown here will help you make appropriate decisions with sentence introductions.

Determining the Correct Form After “There”

In order to determine the right form after “there,” analyze the noun that follows:

  1. If the noun is singular, use “is.”
    Example: “Is there a café near here?” (singular noun).
  2. If the noun is plural, use “are.”
    Example: “Are there any toilets in the park?” (plural noun).

Note: The verb form in these sentences aligns with the noun’s grammatical number—not whether the noun is countable or uncountable.

By properly assessing singular versus plural nouns when using “there is” and “there are,” your writing will become more accurate, clear, and engaging, further enhancing your grammar skills.

Is and Are with Tricky Phrases Like A Number of

Mastering subject-verb agreement can be challenging, especially when dealing with idiomatic expressions and phrases that complicate the singular versus plural distinction. In this section, we’ll discuss how to handle expressions like “a number of” and phrases such as “a pair of” to maintain grammatical correctness and improve your English writing skills.

Idiomatic Expressions and Subject-Verb Agreement

When using idiomatic expressions such as “a number of,” treat them as plural and utilize the verb “are” in your sentence. This expression implies a similar meaning to “several,” which takes a plural verb. For example, “A number of people are concerned about the lack of progress.” Remembering this rule will ensure proper subject-verb agreement and add clarity to your writing.

Handling A Pair of and Similar Phrases

Phrases like “a pair of” can be confusing in terms of subject-verb agreement. The key is to treat items in such phrases as a singular unit and use the verb “is.” For instance, “A good pair of shoes is a luxury in some parts of the world.” By consistently following this rule when using phrases that describe singular, collective entities, your writing will be both precise and grammatically accurate.