Subject-Verb Agreement with There Is/There Are

In an article about shopping for a car: There’s other ways to save money when buying a car.

This grammar error has been spreading over the past few years like germs at a nursery school. Is (there’s, of course, means there is) is a singular verb; why would it be paired with a plural noun (ways) after it? There are only one reason (see how ridiculous that sounds?)—I mean, there is only one reason: confusion with subject-verb agreement.

If you use there is (or the abbreviation there’s), then there had better be a singular noun after it. There is a way to save money. Here, is is singular, and way is singular. If you use there are, then there should be a plural noun after it. There are other ways to save money when buying a car. Here, are is plural, and ways is plural.

I actually saw a website that said that in informal speech, there is is being used with plural nouns. I’m always shocked and dismayed when I find a popular source perpetuating grammar errors. People may be using there is with plural nouns, but whether it’s informal conversation or formal writing, it’s always wrong. Subject-verb agreement is just that—subject-verb agreement, not disagreement. Just because people are doing it doesn’t mean that it’s correct.

Here are some other examples of there is/there are use.

  • There’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic. (incorrect)
  • There are a lot of reasons…. (correct)
  • There’s two sides to every story. (incorrect)
  • There are two sides….(correct)
  • There’s several storms arriving in the West. (incorrect)
  • There are several storms arriving in the West. (correct)
  • There’s not options out there that they like at the moment. (I actually heard this one on ESPN.) (incorrect)
  • There aren’t options…. (correct)

Use the singular case, there is, with non-countable nouns, for example, food, electricity, and air. (There’s a lot of food, there is a lot of electricity, and there’s a lot of air.)


Sherry’s Grammar List and Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

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1 Response to Subject-Verb Agreement with There Is/There Are

  1. I would like to know when to use the word “had”. I always get confused with my tenses.

    Reply from Sherry: Linda, thank you for the question. It sounds as if what you’re talking about is the past perfect tense. I will post an answer as a blog entry very soon.

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