Can we use "there is" for plural nouns?

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Is the following correct:

There's a sofa, two armchairs, a TV and a big cage for our parrots.

Or should we change it to:

There's a sofa, there are two armchairs, there's a TV and a big cage for our parrots.

Mori

Posted 2014-08-11T07:32:45.113

Reputation: 2 141

1

Possible duplicate of "There IS/ARE rice, meat and potatoes on my plate"

– Mari-Lou A – 2017-01-01T23:10:12.313

I came to the conclusion that the reason we use "there's" with plurals is because it is difficult to pronounce "there're". – Eva de Tecate – 2017-10-06T15:31:55.480

7There's is different from there is. – snailplane – 2014-08-11T13:29:01.163

2@snailplane how? – Maulik V – 2014-08-11T16:15:23.277

8@MaulikV Educated speakers of standard English say There's two reasons but not *There is two reasons, always There are two reasons. Existential there's is becoming an invariant form in informal English, used by millions of speakers who would never use there is the same way, so we can no longer treat the two as the same thing. – snailplane – 2014-08-11T16:44:08.117

@snailplane But here the op has not specified 'spoken English' and I'm quite sure in writing they both are same..aren't they? – Maulik V – 2014-08-12T01:17:24.870

2No, they are not. – snailplane – 2014-08-12T05:50:15.597

Answers

13

There's a sofa, two armchairs, a TV and a big cage for our parrots.

This is correct.

There's is a contraction and can mean there is, there has or there are. In this case, it stands for there are. As Snailplane mentions, the there are case has become standard in modern informal English, despite the fact that apostrophe-s isn't a sensible contraction for are. It's inappropriate in formal English to use there's to mean there are, but the same applies to all contractions as a general rule, because contractions are informal.

Why has this happened? Because there's is so ubiquitous and easy to say that this is now how a broad swath of native English speakers naturally talk. And we write the way we talk, so the new meaning of there's is valid in written English as well. Most dictionaries and other English references have not caught up with the new usage, so you won't find an entry in them explaining the there are case. Such materials are (in the case of English) by definition reactive; they don't dictate rules and meanings, they document them, and that takes time and effort.

What happens when we un-contract there's? Let's set aside the there has case, since it's not relevant to the question.

Normally, we conjugate the verb based on the subject. But, there is a dummy subject and can be either singular or plural, so for there is X, we must examine X to determine the plurality of is, as if it were the subject of the sentence. If X is a lone noun, the decision is easy. Use is for singular nouns and are for plural ones.

With lists, we decide how to conjugate based on the list's construction. For a conjunctive list (formed with and), then the correct conjugation is are. For a disjunctive list (formed with or), then the verb is pluralized based on the adjacent list item. For example, there are two small ones or one big one and there is one big one or two small ones. Aside from the exception in the case of or groups, whether the items are plural doesn't matter. A list of singular nouns grouped with and always calls for a plural verb.

These are the standard rules for plural conjugation, and they're unaffected by the new wrinkle in the meaning of there's. There are X [singular] or Y, there are [singular noun], there is A and B, and there is [plural noun] are all ungrammatical.

So, for our example, removing the apostrophe-s yields this:

There are a sofa, two armchairs, a TV and a big cage for our parrots.

Let's examine the proffered amended version.

There's a sofa, there are two armchairs, there's a TV and a big cage for our parrots.

Breaking up the statement into a list of the form there's X, there's Y, and there's Z is valid, though more verbose. But what about each independent clause?

  • There's a sofa - Correct.
  • there are two armchairs - Correct.
  • there's a TV and a big cage for our parrots - Correct. But, this is the same usage of there's as in the original; it stands for there are, because the two items are grouped together with and.

This version is correct, if a little bit awkward sounding, but it still uses there's in the same way as the original. Which is, of course, also correct.

Esoteric Screen Name

Posted 2014-08-11T07:32:45.113

Reputation: 7 480

Since you're mentioning the "there has" case, how about "there have"? E.g. "There's been several occasions..."? Would that be weird than the "there are" case or is that just as common in informal English? – Martin Ender – 2016-07-21T11:25:08.097

I was taught that "there is (singular)" should be used if the immediate adjacent word is singular, such as "There is sofa, two armchairs, a TV and a big cage for our parrots." – KaiserKatze – 2020-02-27T07:42:38.510

5Reminds me of "Here's your keys.". – Mori – 2014-08-12T10:43:18.570

2An excellent example of exactly the same phenomenon. The un-contracted version is here are your keys. – Esoteric Screen Name – 2014-08-12T14:14:28.163

1Just to make sure: is it correct to say "There are a book and a pen on the desk."? – Mori – 2014-08-13T04:45:08.067

1Yes, that's correct. – Esoteric Screen Name – 2014-08-13T06:06:25.430

2

A general rule says that a plural verb is used with two or more subjects connected by commas or a conjunction 'and'.

GrammarBook gives an example:

A car and a bike are my means of transportation.

However, to avoid the awkwardness of the sentence, we'll change the order of those things.

There are two armchairs, a sofa, a TV and a big cage for our parrots.

No need to repeat the location there there!

However, using is is not incorrect as well! For example, it's okay to say, "There is a table and four chairs." A senior member on WordReference gives further explanation to this -

You can use either. Number is usually clear in English sentences, but there are many that are unclear, and if you survey English speakers you will often find a 50-50 (or otherwise) division between those who choose singular and those who choose plural.

Maulik V

Posted 2014-08-11T07:32:45.113

Reputation: 66 188

In your linked statement by 'A senior member on WordReference', the actual usage is neatly sidestepped, and no supporting evidence is given. I'd say that There's followed by a coordinated noun phrase is idiomatic, whereas There is followed by a coordinated noun phrase is far lower on the acceptability scale. – Edwin Ashworth – 2016-09-11T08:51:55.650

There is not a "location" in such a sentence any more than it is a "thing" in *it's raining. It has its own grammatical role of indicating existence quite separate to it's role as indicating a location distant from the speaker. – hippietrail – 2017-12-02T01:45:53.807

2Please add an example to illustrate what you mean by this: using is is not incorrect as well! I'm having trouble getting the correct meaning out of it. – Esoteric Screen Name – 2014-08-11T16:59:55.977

@EsotericScreenName it means using singular is also okay. And the reference is given there in the paragraph. As on the WordReference site. – Maulik V – 2014-08-12T01:14:46.247

1Better to put the example in your answer than require people to go elsewhere to understand what you mean. – Esoteric Screen Name – 2014-08-12T03:32:14.153

@EsotericScreenName you did not get me. The 'quoted text' talks about it. You don't need to go to that site. Anyway, including an example. – Maulik V – 2014-08-12T04:27:58.703

Absolutely right, I didn't get you or the meaning of the quote. Thanks for adding an example :). But I'm afraid it's not correct to say there is a table and four chairs; it should be are. – Esoteric Screen Name – 2014-08-12T08:04:58.333

-3

Because you're listing things you'd use the top one.

'There's' and 'there is' are the same thing. So the top sentence (fully) would be:

There is a sofa, two armchairs, a TV and a big cage for our parrots.

Hope this helps :)

SomeAmbigiousUserName

Posted 2014-08-11T07:32:45.113

Reputation: 1 160