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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Was or were in this case

    Hello,

    A part of my job responsibilities is to proofread reports and make spelling and grammar corrections to them. Recently I was questioned about a correction I made. The sentence read as follows: "There was hair and residue on the chair". I corrected it to "There were hair and residue on the chair" and was told by two people that I'm wrong. Since English is my second language I just wanted to check with you if I'm right or wrong.
    Thank you for your time and input!

  2. riquecohen's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Was or were in this case

    I would say that your use of were is correct. Hair and residue are two things, therefore the plural should be used. Informally, in the present tense, we do hear there's used before plural nouns.

  3. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Was or were in this case

    I disagree with riquecohen (which is rare), I would use "was" in this situation.

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    #4

    Re: Was or were in this case

    I would agree with bhaisahab and use 'was' in this instance. Generally the verb form should match the item it is adjacent to - 'hair' is an uncountable noun so treated as singular for these purposes, thus 'There was hair and residue' is correct.

  4. 5jj's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Was or were in this case

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    I disagree with riquecohen (which is rare), I would use "was" in this situation.
    I half disagree with bhai (which is rare). Actually, I would not speak of 'residue' on a chair, but, assuming I did, I would use 'were'; however, I would not consider 'was' to be incorrect.

    I don't think minnieuk has a completely valid point. I would say only 'There were a pen and a pencil on the chair'.

  5. Bennevis's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Was or were in this case

    "was" sounds so right due to the fact that "hair" and "residue" are both uncountable.
    Compare:
    There was milk and yogurt in the fridge.
    If we use "were" here, it's going to be as though Milk and Yogurt are some fictional cartoon characters: There were Milk and Yogurt.

  6. 5jj's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Was or were in this case

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennevis View Post
    "was" sounds so right due to the fact that "hair" and "residue" are both uncountable.
    Compare:
    There was milk and yogurt in the fridge.
    If we use "were" here, it's going to be as though Milk and Yogurt are some fictional cartoon characters: There were Milk and Yogurt.
    Well, no. Some of us native speakers do use 'were' in such cases.

  7. Newbie
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    #8

    Re: Was or were in this case

    This is a fun discussion

    If we were to reverse the wording of the sentence and say 'Hair and residue was noted on the chair' - doesn't that sound so wrong???

    'Hair and residue were noted on the chair' sounds so much better.

  8. 5jj's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Was or were in this case

    Quote Originally Posted by Dodolina View Post
    This is a fun discussion

    If we were to reverse the wording of the sentence and say 'Hair and residue was noted on the chair' - doesn't that sound so wrong???

    'Hair and residue were noted on the chair' sounds so much better.
    I agree.

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    #10

    Re: Was or were in this case

    Quote Originally Posted by Dodolina View Post
    This is a fun discussion

    If we were to reverse the wording of the sentence and say 'Hair and residue was noted on the chair' - doesn't that sound so wrong???

    'Hair and residue were noted on the chair' sounds so much better.

    ATTENTION: NOT A TEACHER

    (1) Professor Rodney Huddleston, a scholar at the University of Queensland, wrote a

    book entitled Introduction to the Grammar of English (1993 edition). Of course, I

    cannot understand it, but I did find this gem:

    The good professor says that we say "A bottle of wine and a silver goblet were on

    the table," but he claims that only "There was a bottle of wine and a silver goblet

    on the table" is correct. I am not intelligent to understand his book, but I hereby

    note his words: the normal rules of subject-verb agreement do not apply to the

    there construction: person-number inflection in the verb is shared between

    there (which is 3rd person singular, like it) and the NP [noun phrase] following

    the VP [verb phrase].

    It appears that the good professor is one of those experts who feel that "there" in

    such constructions is something like a pronoun, such as it.

    (2) I do not know whether this "rule" applies to your sentence, but many books

    tell us to consider two words as a unit if they are closely linked:

    There is ham and eggs on the menu this morning; There is free room and board

    available for a one lucky scholar.

    (3) I think that many native speakers would have the "feeling" that "hair and

    residue" is a unit.



    If there were a poll, quite possibly a majority of native speakers might feel

    more comfortable with "There was hair and residue on the chair." The use of

    "were" seems to draw too much attention to the word "were" itself!
    Last edited by TheParser; 14-Sep-2011 at 11:33.

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