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  1. #1
    Nordic Bill is offline Member
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    Default Singular or plural form of "to be"

    Can anybody enlighten me as to whether one should write "is" or "are" in this sentence?:

    "There _____________ rain and violent storms off the coast."

    Would we be looking at a plural idea despite "rain" being singular? For some reason "There are rain and ..." sounds a little odd to me, although probably logical and correct.

    (I am aware I could get around this one by shuffling the subjects around: "There are violent storms and rain off the coast", since the plural form storms warrants the use of "are", but that would be cheating).

    Thanx.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Singular or plural form of "to be"

    If switching subjects isn't an option, do what most native speakers do: add in a contraction,

    [1] There's rain and violent storms off the coast.

    Traditionally, though,

    [2] There is rain and violent storms off the coast.

    Meaning A: There is (this:) rain and violent storms off the coast.
    Meaning B: There is rain and (there are) violent storms off the coast

  3. #3
    Nordic Bill is offline Member
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    Default Re: Singular or plural form of "to be"

    Thanks for clearing this one up for me. As I mentioned, the "are" option sounded monumentally incorrect.

    As for the "there's" option, I personally tend to stay away from that particular construction in plural context since it seems to be enjoying wide yet incorrect usage nowadays.

    I recall grammarians ahemming over such constructions as "There's too many names on this list" as far back as the 1980's. There's + plural was already gaining a foothold in everyday speech back then and (please don't quote me) is now considered correct in North American English.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Singular or plural form of "to be"

    Quote Originally Posted by Nordic Bill
    Thanks for clearing this one up for me. As I mentioned, the "are" option sounded monumentally incorrect.
    You're welcome.

    With There-initial constructs - also known as existential there - the true subject comes after the verb, like this,

    Subject: There is a book on the table.
    Subject: A book is on the table.

    Subject-Verb agreement is based on proximity. That is,

    EX: There are books as well as paper on the table.
    EX: There is a book and paper on the table.

    'are' agrees in number with 'books', and 'is' agrees in number with 'a book'. Those nouns are closer to the verb than 'a paper' and 'paper'.

    With 'and', the trick is to make sure the nouns agree in number, and if not, the plural noun comes before the singular noun, like this,

    [1] There are pencils and a book -(they are)- on the table.
    [2] ?There is a book and pencils on the table. (?=awkward)

    'are', in [1], agrees in number with the noun 'pencils' as well as with the combined set 'pencils and a book' - they. In [2], 'is' agrees in number with the singular noun 'a book'. 'is' can be stretched to include the set 'a book and pencils; i.e., this set, but . . . that's stretching it.

    Hope that helped.

  5. #5
    Nordic Bill is offline Member
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    Default Re: Singular or plural form of "to be"

    Exactly what I was looking for! Thanks a lot!

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    Default Re: Singular or plural form of "to be"

    You're most welcome. Sorry for the additional post. (I'm on holiday mode - brain's collected too much lake water. )

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