There Is vs. There Are: How to Choose?

Marcus Froland

Imagine you’re writing an email or a story, and you hit a speed bump. The sentence starts with “There is” or “There are,” but which one do you pick? It’s like standing at a crossroads in the middle of your writing journey. This choice might seem small, yet it has the power to make or break the flow of your sentences. And let’s be honest, we all want our writing to sound just right.

Now, what if I told you that mastering this seemingly trivial aspect could smooth out those bumps in your writing path? Yes, knowing when to use “There is” versus “There are” can transform your English skills. But how do you figure out which road to take? Well, that’s where our journey begins, but I won’t give away the secret just yet.

Choosing between “there is” and “there are” depends on the noun that follows. Use “there is” for a singular noun, like in “There is a cat.” This means one cat exists. Use “there are” for plural nouns, like in “There are cats.” This means more than one cat exists. Remember, if the next word after “there is/are” talks about a group or an amount but it’s seen as one thing, like “water” or “team,” use “there is.” So, for anything counted as one, use “is,” and for anything you count individually, use “are.”

Understanding the Basics of There Is vs. There Are

Getting a solid grasp on the basic grammar concepts of “there is” and “there are” involves recognizing the plurality of the noun that follows these phrases. Simplifying the distinction between these two phrases can be done by considering whether the noun is singular or plural. If it is singular, “there is” would be appropriate, while “there are” would suit plural nouns.

This fundamental rule holds true regardless of modifiers, such as “a number of” or “many,” which may appear before the noun in question. The correct choice depends on the number of the noun, and not the presence of any modifiers. To fully understand this concept, let’s explore some examples that demonstrate the proper verb agreement and sentence formation.

There is a dog in the park.

There are many dogs in the park.

In the first example, “there is” is used because “dog” is a singular noun. In the second example, “there are” is utilized due to the plural noun, “dogs.”

Before diving deeper, it’s essential to examine the impact of modifiers like “a number of” or “many” on this rule:

There is a variety of fruits on the table.

There are a number of books in the library.

In both instances, the correct choice is still governed by the number of the noun. In the first sentence, “variety” is a singular noun, despite the plurality implied by the word “fruits.” Consequently, the sentence is formed using “there is.” Similarly, the second sentence uses “there are” with “a number of books” since “books” is a plural noun.

By understanding these basics, you’ll be able to make the proper choice when deciding between “there is” and “there are” based on the singular vs. plural usage of the noun following these phrases.

Navigating Singular and Plural Nouns

Understanding the difference between singular and plural nouns is crucial to ensure appropriate subject-verb agreement and correct grammatical structure. This section will guide you through identifying and using singular and plural nouns with “there is” and “there are” for accurate English syntax.

When to Use There Is with Singular Nouns

Utilize “there is” when referencing a singular noun, signifying just one entity. For example:

There is a cat on the porch.

In this sentence, “cat” is a singular noun, and therefore, “there is” correctly denotes the presence of just one cat. The emphasis here is on the unity of the subject in question.

  1. There is a book on the table.
  2. There is a beautiful flower in the garden.
  3. There is a car parked by the curb.
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These examples also illustrate the use of “there is” with singular nouns, showcasing the subject’s unity and reinforcing the need for correct subject-verb agreement.

Identifying When There Are Applies to Plurals

Conversely, “there are” should be utilized with plural nouns, which indicate multiple items or entities. For instance:

There are many opportunities to learn at this company.

Here, “opportunities” is a plural noun. As such, “there are” is used to emphasize the subject’s multiplicity, conforming to grammatical number agreement and English syntax rules.

  1. There are several books on the shelf.
  2. There are colorful flowers blooming in the park.
  3. There are cars lined up in the parking lot.

These examples reinforce the proper use of “there are” with plural nouns, highlighting the subject’s multiple facets and underscoring the importance of subject-verb agreement in effective communication.

The Role of Context in Choosing There Is or There Are

When it comes to deciding between “there is” and “there are,” contextual grammar usage plays a significant role in constructing effective communication. The sentence’s context determines which of these phrases best maintains sentence agreement and readability.

Consider the case of listing singular items, where using “there are” might seem awkward, even though grammar rules might require it. In such instances, opting for “there is” can improve the flow and clarity of the sentence without sacrificing correct grammatical structure. However, when traditional grammar rules strongly advocate for “there are,” it is essential to adhere to these guidelines to avoid confusion.

On some occasions, the simplest solution to choosing between “there is” and “there are” is to rewrite the sentence altogether. This approach can help avoid potential awkwardness or ambiguity stemming from the context. Below are some examples to demonstrate the importance of context in making the right choice:

  1. Incorrect: There are a book and a pen on the table.
  2. Correct: There is a book and a pen on the table.
  3. Alternative: A book and a pen are on the table.

Remember, the context of the sentence greatly impacts the appropriate choice between “there is” and “there are.” In situations where both options seem awkward, consider rewriting the sentence for better clarity and readability.

In summary, always take the sentence’s context into account when deciding between “there is” and “there are.” Utilizing these phrases correctly, according to the sentence agreement rules, will result in more effective communication and avoid potential misunderstandings.

Common Exceptions and Tricky Situations

While mastering the use of “there is” and “there are” may seem simple, specific situations can challenge your understanding of these grammar concepts. In this section, we will discuss two common areas of confusion: collective nouns and expressions like “a number of” and “a variety of.”

Dealing with Collective Nouns

Collective nouns, such as “team” or “family”, appear singular in form but represent a group of items or individuals. Deciding whether to use “there is” or “there are” with collective nouns can be tricky, but the key is understanding the intended emphasis. Usually, “there is” applies to collective nouns if the emphasis is on the group as a whole.

Example: There is a team of engineers working on the project.

However, if the intention is to highlight the individual members within the group, using “there are” may be more appropriate and may sound more natural to some speakers.

Example: There are ten engineers making up the team for this project.

Using “A Number of” and “A Variety of”

Expressions like “a number of” and “a variety of” may also create confusion when choosing between “there is” and “there are.” These expressions suggest plurality, and by strict grammatical rules, they typically require “there are.” However, ambiguity can arise when choosing the verb form, as the emphasis may lie on the group or its constituents.

  1. Emphasis on the group: Use “there is”
  • Example: There is a number of books in the library on this topic.
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  • Emphasis on the constituents: Use “there are”
    • Example: There are quite a few books in the library on this topic.

    Ultimately, to avoid ambiguity and ensure sentence clarity, you may want to consider rewriting the sentence to exclude expressions like “a number of” or “a variety of.”

    In summary, although some exceptions and tricky situations can arise, understanding the general guidelines for collective nouns and expressions of quantity can help you maintain proper English sentence structure and achieve sentence clarity. Always think about the context and the intended emphasis in the sentence to determine the appropriate use of “there is” or “there are.”

    There Is vs. There Are in Negative Sentences

    In negative sentences, proper negation rules dictate a parallel structure to affirmative sentences. “There is not” is used for singular nouns, while “there are not” is applied to plural nouns. However, when considering the flow and ease of speech, contractions in grammar, like “there isn’t” for singular nouns and “there aren’t” for plural nouns, are often favored in negative constructions.

    To help you better understand the correct usage of “there is” and “there are” in negative sentences, here are some examples:

    • There is not a book on the table.
    • There are not many apples left in the bowl.

    With contractions, the same sentences become:

    • There isn’t a book on the table.
    • There aren’t many apples left in the bowl.

    Regardless of your choice of negative sentence structure, make sure your sentences communicate your intended meaning effectively.

    Singular Nouns Plural Nouns
    There is not a cloud in the sky. There are not many stars in the sky.
    There isn’t a person in sight. There aren’t people nearby.

    To summarize, when forming negative sentences, “there is not” and “there isn’t” should be used with singular nouns, while “there are not” and “there aren’t” are appropriate for plural nouns. The choice of negative sentence structure ultimately depends on personal preference or context, but always stay consistent with the singular or plural nature of the noun in question.

    Forming Questions with There Is and There Are

    When it comes to forming questions using “there is” and “there are,” understanding the inversion of the phrase order is key. To create interrogative sentences, switch the positions of “is” or “are” and “there.” For singular or uncountable nouns, use “is there,” while for plural nouns, “are there” is the appropriate choice.

    Let’s take a look at some examples to demonstrate the correct usage of question formation:

    1. Is there a book on the desk?
    2. Are there any free tickets available?

    When responding to such questions, it’s essential to maintain the consistency of singular versus plural agreement. Possible answers include:

    • Yes, there is
    • No, there isn’t
    • Yes, there are
    • No, there aren’t

    Consider the following examples to further illustrate the proper use of grammatical queries:

    Q: Is there enough time to finish the project?
    A: Yes, there is.

    Q: Are there any cupcakes left in the kitchen?
    A: No, there aren’t.

    Becoming adept at forming questions with “there is” and “there are” will help you master an important aspect of English sentence structure. With practice and attention to detail, you will be able to create clear and grammatically correct interrogative sentences.

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    Practical Tips for Perfect Grammar: There Is vs. There Are

    Mastering grammar involves understanding and consistently applying the rules for verb-noun agreement. Following these tips will aid your journey to English writing perfection:

    • Remember that “there is” pairs with singular and uncountable nouns, while “there are” corresponds to plural nouns.
    • Use contractions such as “there’s” and “there’re” where appropriate in spoken language and informal writing.
    • Consider the context of the entire sentence when choosing between “there is” and “there are” to maintain proper sentence structure.
    • For collective nouns, select the form (singular or plural) that sounds most natural, without compromising the sentence’s clarity or meaning.

    One of the most important factors in conveying your thoughts effectively is making sure your sentences are clear and concise. Here are a few examples to further illustrate these grammar tips:

    Correct: There is a dog in the park.

    Incorrect: There are a dog in the park.

    Correct: There are many books on the shelf.

    Incorrect: There is many books on the shelf.

    While these tips will help you choose between “there is” and “there are,” sometimes it may be more effective to rewrite the sentence. Reconstructing the sentence can improve clarity, eliminate ambiguity, and help you maintain a natural flow. Here are examples of rewritten sentences:

    Original: There is a car, a truck, and a bus on the street.

    Rewritten: A car, a truck, and a bus are on the street.

    Original: There are a large conference table and several chairs in the room.

    Rewritten: A large conference table and several chairs are in the room.

    Ultimately, the goal is to communicate clearly and effectively. Stay mindful of proper verb-noun agreement and context when choosing between “there is” and “there are,” and you’ll be on your way to achieving best practices in English writing and mastering grammar.

    Exercises to Test Your Knowledge of There Is and There Are

    Understanding the correct usage of “there is” and “there are” is essential for mastering English grammar. To strengthen your knowledge, it’s important to engage in grammar exercises that will help you practice and test your grammar in various contexts. We’ve provided a few exercise ideas here that will focus on affirmative, negative, and interrogative sentences with singular and plural nouns, as well as collective nouns and expressions of quantity.

    The first step to success in learning English is to practice identifying whether the noun in a sentence is singular or plural and then selecting the appropriate form of “there is” or “there are.” Try rewriting sentences using both forms and then determining which version sounds the most natural and grammatically correct. Working with a partner or a group can also provide valuable feedback and further understanding of the rules.

    Another helpful activity is creating your own practice questions regarding “there is” and “there are” for affirmative, negative, and interrogative sentences. Try using a range of singular, plural, and collective nouns to ensure you understand various contexts. Conduct these exercises regularly and soon, you’ll have a firm grasp on the fundamental grammatical concept of using “there is” and “there are” correctly.