Verb for two uncountable items


What verb form should I use when talking about two uncountable items?

Which of these sentences is correct?

1.There are lightning and thunder.

2.There is lightning and thunder.


Posted 2013-09-08T02:26:23.250

Reputation: 41



Lightning and thunder are both uncountable nouns, but there are two of them, i.e. it is possible to count uncountable-noun words. For this reason we use the plural form are:

Lightning and thunder are both natural phenomena.

The confusion arises because we also have an idiomatic phrase in English thunder and lightning, which is treated as a (singular) noun phrase:

There is thunder and lightning in the sky.

The thunder and lightning is pretty scary, huh?

Technically you could break the noun-phrase from the singular "thunder and lightning" back into its constitutent parts of "thunder" and "lightning" and so something like this is technically grammatical:

(X) The thunder and lightning are pretty scary.

It is grammatical (replace the nouns to see this fact: "the rain and hail are pretty scary!" is perfectly grammatical), but it is extremely unidiomatic, and no native English speaker would say it.


Posted 2013-09-08T02:26:23.250

Reputation: 11 728


There is lightning and thunder.

This is the correct usage of the verb form. However I'm unclear of the reason why (maybe someone could elaborate.


Posted 2013-09-08T02:26:23.250

Reputation: 487