Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: there is; there are (2).

there is; there are (2). Today: Number with. The number of the verb is controlled by whether the inverted subject that follows “there is” or “there are” is singular or plural. Mistakes are common — e.g.: o “He said there is [read ‘are’] several truckloads of nuclear waste.” Frank Munger, “State Bans DOE Nuke Waste,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, 18 Apr. 1996, at A1. o “With an onslaught of fresh new talented female R&B groups, there is [read ‘are’] several ways you, the consumer, can decipher whether or not you should purchase their products.” Craig D. Frazier, “‘Tha Truth,’ a Group of Talented Young Female Rappers with Style,” N.Y. Amsterdam News, 15 Mar. 1997, at 30. Constructions with “seem to be” and “appear to be” follow the same model: the number of the inverted subject dictates the number of the verb. Again, mistakes are common — e.g.: o “There appears [read ‘appear’] to be several possibilities for transporting the Algerian gas under a new contract.” Robert D. Hershey Jr., “Christopher Will Lead Gas Talks with Algeria,” N.Y. Times, 15 Apr. 1981, at D1. o “There seems [read ‘seem’] to be two key reasons for Capriati’s renaissance.” Sandra Harwitt, “Capriati’s Life Back in Focus,” USA Today, 26 Jan. 2000, at C3. Especially when followed by a negative, “there” has in many minds come to represent a single situation. It therefore often appears, though wrongly, with a singular verb — e.g.: “‘There wasn’t [read ‘weren’t’] any other witnesses.'” Rebecca Thatcher, “Girl’s Report of Abduction, Sexual Assault Investigated,” Austin Am.-Statesman, 9 Dec. 1994, at B1 (quoting the Austin, Texas, police chief). The person who says “there wasn’t . . . [plural]” here would never say “they was.” Language-Change Index — (1) “there is” (or “there’s”) with a plural subject {there’s three things}: Stage 2; (2) “there is” (or “there’s”) with a compound subject whose first member is singular {there’s an outhouse and a sump pump out back}: Stage 4. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Recognizable forms of Standard English, in speech and writing, are to be found in a relatively small proportion of the population of England, possibly as small a number as five million. We move round using our various dialects and idiolects surrounded by, overwhelmed by, walls and barriers of unmatching sounds and dissimilar constructions.” Robert W. Burchfield, Unlocking the English Language 50 (1989).
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