The difference between “there is” and “there are” may seem pretty simple, but there are times when deciding which to use can be a bit more complicated.
Read on for more on when to use “there is” and “there are” so you can avoid embarrassing grammar gaffes.
What Is the Difference Between There Is and There Are?
In general, whether you should use “there is” or “there are” depends on the noun that follows it.
If the noun is singular, in most cases, you will use “there is.” If the noun is plural, you’ll most often use “there are.”
The difference between “there is” and “there are” can be seen in the following examples:
- There is a dog in our yard.
- There are 3 dogs in our yard.
- There is a great job opportunity you might be interested in.
- There are many great job opportunities you might be interested in.
Notice that in the second example above, modifiers like “many” that are placed before the plural noun don’t change the fact that you’ll still need to use “there are.”
Sometimes, however, additional phrases can make things a bit more confusing.
There Is a Number or There Are a Number?
One such example can be found in the phrase “a number of [noun].”
For example, if I say “a number of stray dogs,” do I make my decision about using “there is” or “there are” based on “a number,” which is singular, or “stray dogs,” which is plural?
There’s not really a right or wrong answer here; you’ll simply have to make a decision. If you want to emphasize the group, use “is”; if you want to emphasize the individual group members, use “are.”
Correct: There is a wide variety of foods to choose from.
Also correct: There are a variety of delicious foods to choose from.
Is ‘Any’ Singular or Plural?
The same conflict often arises when we throw the word “any” into the mix, since it’s most often followed by a plural noun.
For example, in the question “Are there any questions?” we use “are there” because “questions” is obviously plural.
The word “money” is a slightly more complex example, since it’s usually used in the plural sense, yet we would need to say “Is there any money on the table?” instead of “Are there any money on the table?”
Although it’s generally less common, “any” can sometimes be used with singular nouns, like in the question, “Is there any doubt?”
How to Conjugate Verbs
Just as it’s important to know the difference between “is” and “are,” it’s also helpful to know how to conjugate them in the past tense and subjunctive mood.
You can learn more about that by checking out our post on was vs. were, which explains how to use each in different tenses.
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