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“There is” - Huge Grammatical Mistake

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I’ll go out on a limb: Sometime today, most people reading this section will make this grammatical mistake, perhaps not in writing, but certainly in speech. Listen carefully to your sentences starting with there’s, which is to say, there is. You’ll be surprised at the frequency of this error. Also watch out for here’s.

Here’s the rule. Here’re the rules. (Are you getting my drift?)

In the eBook Developing a Powerful Writing Style, we discuss the structure called the expletive (not a curse word), which fills the syntactic duty of another word. The expressions there is, there are, this is, these are, and others qualify as expletives. Though a bit different, here is and here are act in much the same way.

The Rule

When you use these expressions, the number of the verb (the singular is or was vs. the plural are or were) will be determined by the noun following the expression. If the noun is singular, you must use the singular is or was. If the noun is plural, you must use the plural are or were. Thus, study the following mistake in a reported court opinion and burn it into your memory:

[A] trial judge has an affirmative duty . . . to ascertain whether there is irrelevant, immaterial, or privileged matters contained within the records or documents. Peeples v. The Honorable Fourth Sup. J. Dist., 701 S.W.2d 635, 637 (Tex. 1985) (quoted in Garner Legal, p. 879).

Now look at these correct constructions.

There are many cases governing this issue. Not: There’s many cases governing this issue.

Here are the rules on subject-verb agreement. Not: Here’s the rules on subject-verb agreement.

Here’s one I heard on a recent Seinfeld rerun. In an exchange with George, Jerry makes two grammatical mistakes before getting it right:

There’s girls over there, there’s girls over here. There are even girls outside on the sidewalk.

Some screenwriter had to write it down that way.

On May 22, 2001, I received an email from a lawyer in Utah:

Here’s some articles you might want to review.

Say what? Articles is . . . ?

Listen very carefully to the speech of your colleagues; listen to your family; listen to your children; listen to broadcasters; listen to politicians; listen to judges; listen to the talking heads; just listen.

Click page 2 below. Everybody makes this mistake.

Listen to Henry Fowler, the keeper of the Queen’s English:

[T]here is a strong, not always resisted, temptation, found prominently but not only in uneducated speech, to introduce a plural subject with the reduced form There’s . . . . Some informal examples from newspapers: There’s 35 locations to serve you; But for every big, dumb move like this, there’s half a dozen small, smart details. [Bold emphasis added.] New Fowler, p. 778.

On Friday, April 27, 2001, I tested my own challenge. On All Things Considered, the editor-in-chief of On the Media was reporting on the growing popularity of bass fishing. In his report, he said the following:

There’s even bass radio programs . . . .

http://search1.npr.org/opt/collections/torched/atc/data_atc/ seg_122132.htm. Unfortunately, the program no longer appears on the NPR website.

Let me challenge you.

This evening, turn on National Public Radio and listen to the news or to All Things Considered. You’d think you’d find perfect English there, now wouldn’t you? I will wager any amount of money that you’ll hear many mistakes with there’s and here’s, mistakes made both by the NPR interviewers and by the usually prominent interviewees.

Or pick up your favorite newspaper. Although this mistake more frequently appears in spoken language, it does show up in the press. Here’s a humdinger from the May 8, 2001, edition of The Washington Post:

Now there was two outs, and Gibbons stepped into the batter’s box.

“Welcome to the Bigs” The Washington Post, May 8, 2001, p. D3, col. 2.

Pardon me? There was two outs? Two outs was . . . ?

MasterCard Gets It Right

We can applaud the grammatical accuracy of that famous MasterCard ad:

There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else theres MasterCard.

 

Previous: Chapter 1, - Subject-Verb Disagreement Next: Three Rules on Subject-Verb Agreement

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