There Is vs. There Are: A Quick Guide
  • 2-minute read
  • 29th December 2022

There Is vs. There Are: A Quick Guide

“There is/there are” is used to describe that something is present, exists, or helps give direction to where something is or what something is doing.

For example:

There are two cats in the tree.
(Two cats are in the tree.)

There is a book on the sofa.
(The book is located on the sofa.)

There is a strange man in my house.
(A strange man is present in my house.)

There are many fish in the sea.
(Many fish exist in the sea.)

Singular vs. Plural

There is/there’s = Singular nouns

There are = Plural nouns

There is a dog in the park.
(a dog = singular)

There’s a beautiful house on this street.
(a beautiful house = singular)

There are many dogs in the park.
(many dogs = plural)

There are a lot of plants in your house.
(a lot of plants = plural)

Using Quantifiers with There is/There are

Quantifiers are words and phrases that indicate an amount/number of something.

For example: many, a lot of, some, any, much, most, few, a few, and lots of.

There are a lot of kids in my class.

There is some chicken in the refrigerator.
(Some is used to indicate not a lot of something.)

There are many things to do today.

Negative forms

There is not/there isn’t

There are not/there aren’t

With negative forms, we use “any” before uncountable nouns and plural nouns.

For example:

There aren’t any clouds in the sky today.
(There are no clouds in the sky.)

There aren’t any good restaurants here.
(There are no good restaurants in this area.)

There isn’t any cake left. You ate it all.
(There is no cake left.)

How to Form Questions with There is/There are

To form questions, we flip the word order of “there is/there are,” and we use “any.”

For example:

Are there any pencils in the box?

Is there an apple in the kitchen?

Is there any pizza?

Is there a package here for me?

Are there any movies to see at the cinema later?

Using There is/There are with Lists

Using “there is/there are” with lists is common. However, there is some debate on when to use “there is/there are” based on whether the first item in the list is plural or singular.

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Let’s look at some examples:

There is a pencil, notebook, and calculator in my backpack.

There is a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living room in the house.

There are whales, sharks, and fish in the sea.

There are two goats, one dog, five pigs, and three horses on the farm.

If you notice, “there is/there are” is used based on whether the first item in the list is singular or plural.

●  If the first item is singular, use “there is.”

●  If the first item is plural, use “there are.”

However, please be mindful because some teachers/educators will say that since a list is composed of many items, the sentence should always start with “there are” to follow strict grammar rules. However, this is debated because using “There are a pencil, notebook, etc.” can be awkward phrasing.

Avoiding Wordiness with There is/There are

Generally, we can remove “there is/there are” from a sentence to reduce wordiness or make it more specific. Often, “there is/there are” can make a sentence vague, so by removing it, we need to add additional and more specific information for our readers.

For example:

There are apples in the tree. = Apples are in the tree.
(reducing wordiness)

There’s cake at home. = I have cake at home.
(more specific)

There is a huge bird! = Look at the huge bird over there!
(more specific)

There are some games we can play during recess. = We can play some games during recess.
(reducing wordiness)

Takeaway

Using “there is/there are” in a sentence is a fundamental speaking and writing skill in English. In addition, it is important to understand when to remove it from your sentence to make your writing more concise and specific.

If you want help with using “there is/there are” or other English grammar rules, Proofed will proofread your first 500 words for free.

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