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  1. #1
    englishhobby's Avatar
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    Default THERE WAS with two singular nouns

    I've read in some grammar books that when you ennumerate several singular nouns you should use the form THERE IS, not THERE ARE (even though you are going to name a dozen of objects after this first singular noun):

    There is a sofa, a TV stand and an armchair in the room. (not "There ARE a sofa, a TV stand...)


    So is the following sentence grammatically correct:

    There was the supervisor and the deputy head at the prospective teacher's observed lesson.


    P.S. I would also appreciate your comments on the vocabulary of this sentence. It's about a trainee on his first teaching practice. Is it all right to use the phrase "the prospective teacher" for "the trainee" or "the student teacher"? How would you make this sentence sound more natural?
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up.)

  2. #2
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: THERE WAS with two singular nouns

    The supervisor and the deputy head were there to observe the student teacher's lesson.

  3. #3
    englishhobby's Avatar
    englishhobby is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: THERE WAS with two singular nouns

    Thank you.) And what about the grammar rule I wrote about?


    There was (or were?) the supervisor and the deputy head in the classroom.

    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up.)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: THERE WAS with two singular nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by englishhobby View Post
    Thank you.) And what about the grammar rule I wrote about?


    There was (or were?) the supervisor and the deputy head in the classroom.

    It's irrelevant. Starting your particular sentence with "There is/was" or "There are/were" would be very unnatural. The only way you could do it would be to say "There were two people in the room to observe the trainee teacher's lesson - the supervisor and the deputy head". Otherwise, stick with SoothingDave's suggestion.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 08-Jan-2013 at 16:56.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  5. #5
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: THERE WAS with two singular nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by englishhobby View Post
    Thank you.) And what about the grammar rule I wrote about?

    There was (or were?) the supervisor and the deputy head in the classroom.

    It's not a very natural way of expressing it, which is why SD suggested what he did. In the unlikely event of my using the construction you did, I'd go for 'There were ...'
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  6. #6
    englishhobby's Avatar
    englishhobby is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: THERE WAS with two singular nouns

    Thanks again for your explanation. Then, to judge by what has been said in this thread so far, will it be right to say that "there is/ there are" shouldn't be used with animate nouns at all, because this structure implies that somebody exists? Or the use of the structure "There is/are/was/were + animate noun + another animate noun and one more animate noun" is possible, but limited to fairytales (Once upon a time there was an old man and old woman"), if I got it correctly.? )

    And with inanimate nouns is it correct to say:
    There was a table, a bookcase and two armchairs in the room.
    Or should the plural form (There were) be used?
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up.)

  7. #7
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: THERE WAS with two singular nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by englishhobby View Post
    Thanks again for your explanation. Then, to judge by what has been said in this thread so far, will it be right to say that "there is/ there are" shouldn't be used with animate nouns at all, because this structure implies that somebody exists? So the use of the structure "There is/are/was/were + animate noun + another animate noun and one more animate noun" is limited, if I got it correctly.? )
    No
    And with inanimate nouns is it correct to say:
    There was a table, a bookcase and two armchairs in the room.
    Or should the plural form (There were) be used?
    As I have already said, I would use 'There were ...'
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: THERE WAS with two singular nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by englishhobby View Post
    I've read in some grammar books that when you ennumerate several singular nouns you should use the form THERE IS, not THERE ARE (even though you are going to name a dozen of objects after this first singular noun)
    Which grammar books? You will come across both the singular and the plural used. The singular form is commonly contracted to There's. You will also hear things like There's two things I want to say. Singular and plural are complex issues and not simply a matter of counting- proximity is a factor, so we may prefer a singular verb before a singular noun, even if it is one of a list, but deducing an absolute rule from that does not strike me as right.

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