“There’s two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope,” said Oscar Wilde.
No, of course he didn’t say that. What he said was:
“There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.”
When I’m in grammar-nazi mode, I’ll often find myself jumping up and down in front of the TV, yelling and growling at the misuse of basic grammar. One of the errors that’s guaranteed to get me into a right lather is the incorrect use of ‘there is’ and ‘there are’. For instance:
Is there many ways to do this? (Incorrect)
There’s two more episodes of The Following. (Incorrect)
So, what’s the deal?
The verb and its subject should agree. I.e. Singular subjects should have singular verbs and plural subjects need plural verbs. (Did you ever have to conjugate at school? As in: I am, you are, he is, etc.?)
In the instances above, the subject of ‘is’ or ‘are’ is not ‘there’.
Let’s try changing some sentences round:
There are many animals at the zoo. (NOT There’s many animals at the zoo.)
Many animals are at the zoo. (NOT Many animals is…)
There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet. (NOT There’s twenty-six letters in the alphabet.)
Twenty-six letters are in the alphabet. (NOT Twenty-six letters is….)
There are no vowels in the word ‘crypt’. (NOT There’s no vowels in the word ‘crypt’.)
No vowels are in the word ‘crypt’. (NOT No vowels is…)
There is a painting of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.
A painting of the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre. (NOT A painting of the Mona Lisa are…)
The last example, however, is probably a little redundant because the error is virtually always in the use of the singular form of ‘to be’ when it should be the plural.
Words like ‘lot’, ‘any’ and ‘some’ will take the form of the verb that should agree with what follows, e.g.:
There are some fruit stalls at the market. (Fruit stalls = plural)
Some fruit stalls are at the market.
There is some dressing in the salad. (Dressing = singular)
Some dressing is in the salad.
Are there any bats in the belfry? (Bats = plural)
Bats are in the belfry.
There are a lot of people at the shops today. (People = plural)
A lot of people are at the shops today.
There is some money in my piggy bank. (Money = singular)
Some money is in my piggy bank.
There are a lot of coins in my piggy bank. (Coins = plural)
A lot of coins are in my piggy bank.
If you’re in any doubt about what form of ‘to be’ should follow ‘there’, put the subject in front of the verb to help you determine whether it should be ‘is’ or ‘are’.