There is; there are; there was; there were.

Yes, we hear these words often.  In grocery stores, on buses, and on radio and television.  We hear them everywhere. We also read them in newspaper columns, magazines, blogs, or in advertising fliers.

They are very useful introductions to what we want to point out in our stories or in our observations of the world around us. And we understand them perfectly and are able to use them ourselves. And that is a good thing.

But, do we use them correctly? Well, that is a good question, and the problem is that many of us don’t.

Does the incorrect use interfere with comprehension?  No, not usually.  Does it annoy the listener or reader? Maybe. Maybe not. In fact this error is so common that I wonder if one day there will be no distinction between the correct and the incorrect form.  Maybe one day we will all be saying, “There’s many people who speak that way.” Maybe one day not one of us will feel the slightest twinge and want to correct the speaker.

Perhaps.  But I will not give in without a fight because I find it grating to my ear.  And it is so very easy to use the correct form.

Let’s see if I can help you.

The verb “to be” has a singular and a plural form in both the present and the past tense.  When we use “There” plus a form of the verb “to be” we simply have to think ahead to what follows.  Is it a singular noun or a plural noun? If it is singular, we use “is” or “was.” If it is plural, we must use “are” or “were.” Simple, right?

A level of difficulty seems to arise when people use the contraction, “there’s” to replace “there is.” For some reason, they then feel that “there’s” functions for both a singular and a plural noun.  Not so. The “s” is used for the third person verb form, not for plural nouns.

“There are simple rules.” There is (There’s)  no reason not to apply them in our speaking and writing.

“There is a simple rule.” There are no reasons not to apply it in our speaking and writing.

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