There Is vs. There Are

In a phrase that begins with “there,” how do you determine whether to use “is” or “are” as the verb?

Well, verb tenses must agree with the subject as to whether it is singular or plural. “There” is not the subject; it is an adverb that tells where the subject is (in that place). So we don’t match the verb tense to the adverb “there,” but to the subject that follows it.

There are several wells in need of hot oil treatments to melt the paraffin buildup.
There is one well in particular that used to be a good producer, but hardly flows at all.

The subject of the first sentence is “several wells,” which requires the plural verb “are.”
The subject of the second sentence is “one well,” which needs the singular verb “is.”

The same rule applies to the past tense: “there was” vs. “there were.”

There once was a girl from Nantucket, who carried her dog in a bucket.
There once were three guys from Kuwait, who couldn’t come up with a date.

There will be a prize of a miniscule size for the one with a limerick great!
(Keep it clean – my bosses read this.)


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