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There is/There are

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There is/There are

Postby astaroth » Wed 06.10.2009 5:27 pm

Would you say 'there is a book and a pen' or 'there are a book and a pen'?
To me the latter would sound more grammatically correct as the book and the pen are the subjects of the verb, though less natural. I'd probably say 'there is a book and a pen' if I were not thinking too much about.
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Re: There is/There are

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 06.10.2009 5:51 pm

astaroth wrote:Would you say 'there is a book and a pen' or 'there are a book and a pen'?
To me the latter would sound more grammatically correct as the book and the pen are the subjects of the verb, though less natural. I'd probably say 'there is a book and a pen' if I were not thinking too much about.


The former is correct, the latter is not natural.

The other way around is a little more complex (e.g. "A book and a pen are on the table"); in most cases the plural verb is used but there are some times when the singular is used instead, particularly when the compound phrase is thought of as a single unit (e.g. "Write a short note; a pad of paper and a pencil is on the table" sound perfectly natural to me although "are" would be fine there as well).
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Re: There is/There are

Postby Sairana » Wed 06.10.2009 5:54 pm

I can't remember the names of the grammar rules that apply here, but the first is grammatically correct.

A compound object doesn't make it plural. So you have two sentences:
There is a book.
There is a pen.

You are combining them into a single sentence:
There is a book and a pen.

If you have multiples of one, the multiple is listed first and the plural is applied to the verb.
There are books.
There is a pen.
There are books and a pen.

There is a book.
There are pens.
There are pens and a book.
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Re: There is/There are

Postby AJBryant » Wed 06.10.2009 8:48 pm

Sairana is correct. :)
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Re: There is/There are

Postby keatonatron » Wed 06.10.2009 9:55 pm

Sairana wrote:If you have multiples of one, the multiple is listed first and the plural is applied to the verb.
There are books.
There is a pen.
There are books and a pen.

There is a book.
There are pens.
There are pens and a book.


I think you can switch the order, can't you?

"There are a book and pens on the table." sounds okay to me, although "There are a book and some pens on the table." sounds much better for some reason :?
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Re: There is/There are

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 06.10.2009 10:28 pm

"There are a book and pens" sounds wrong to me; I think this is one of those cases where proximity overrides agreement and you get "There is a book and pens" instead. Perhaps in careful writing you should put the plural first but I don't think most native speakers will instinctively do that in normal speech. (Of course, in speech, the contracted "there's" is often used with plural nouns as well, or at least it is in my dialect.)
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Re: There is/There are

Postby Sairana » Thu 06.11.2009 1:07 am

keatonatron wrote:"There are a book and pens on the table."


This sounds off to me, too.

Yudan Taiteki wrote:I think this is one of those cases where proximity overrides agreement and you get "There is a book and pens"


I think it's pretty intuitive for native speakers to list bigger groups of objects first when just listing them as in the original sentence. If the plural comes second, it always seems to be turned into a collective noun in some way or another. IE, "There is a book and some pens on the desk." Not that 'some' technically makes it collective; I know it's not a collective noun in and of itself, but in colloquial speech it is often used that way. [There's some food in the fridge when you get hungry.]
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Re: There is/There are

Postby keatonatron » Thu 06.11.2009 3:50 am

It's really a matter of preference.

As to what is correct, it can go either way, apparently. I found this link, in which people supporting both options posted their opinions:

http://ask.metafilter.com/84536/There-is-or-There-are

One person even quoted Meriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage which states either is correct, although people have various preferences.

So, for Astaroth's question, what I posted isn't incorrect, but if you want to write/say things that no one will find awkward stick with the other option. :wink:
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Re: There is/There are

Postby astaroth » Thu 06.11.2009 8:03 am

Thanks, guys!
If I were talking, I would probably go with the sequence shown by Sairana, so I would say 'There are pens and one book'. But in writing I was pretty unsure (though I doubt I'll ever have to write a similar sentence in a formal paper for work).

Sairana wrote:[There's some food in the fridge when you get hungry.]

Isn't 'food' a collective noun by itself? 'There is food in the fridge' sounds fine to me and I don't think it implies there is only one apple in the fridge.
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Re: There is/There are

Postby keatonatron » Thu 06.11.2009 10:53 am

astaroth wrote:
Sairana wrote:[There's some food in the fridge when you get hungry.]

Isn't 'food' a collective noun by itself? 'There is food in the fridge' sounds fine to me and I don't think it implies there is only one apple in the fridge.


Yes. "There is some food" is a perfectly fine way to begin a sentence.
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