1. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Why "there is"?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ohmyrichard, Nov 14, 2008.

    Recently I have read at a forum on this website a post which goes, "I don't really see the point in reading a novel more than once, to be quite honest, unless you were -completely- in love with it. There's so many good books out there that going through something you've already read before would detract your time and attention from discovering new material." Would you please tell me why this native speaker said "there's so many good books", rather than "there are so many good books"? As a non-native speaker, I never dare to use "there's so many people, books or anything in its plural form".

    In English grammar books, we also have sentences like "There is an old worker and two young assistants doing the job today." My understanding of the use of "there is", rather than "there are" in these situations, though the subject is plural, is that native speakers might originally have only thought of the first item of the list in the subject or they might not have known it would be a list and even sometimes it is a long list when they started the sentence, they may pause after this first item. However, when they have mentioned the first item, they instantly think of more items. They then add these items, but they do not wish to or they do not have the time to or they do not care to change "there is" to "there are", as they don’t think that not changing "there is" to "there are" will confuse their listeners in terms of the meaning of the whole sentence. So, I guess that in some situations this "there is" is a slip that nearly all native speakers make when they are talking in a casual way. Because of this, we do not consider it as a mistake but rather something acceptable and natural. And sentences like "There is an old worker and two young assistants doing the job today." appear in both spoken English and written English. Interestingly, now we all say “There are an old worker and two young assistants doing the job today” is wrong.

    Please tell me whether my analysis above is a sound understanding of the issue or not.
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most forum posts are like casual conversation. People don't often go back and make sure every sentence is correctly formed.

    For ecample, the original thought may have begun, "There is so much to read...", and then "so much to read..." morphed into "so many books..."

    The long and short of it is that people don't speak as precisely in casual conversation as they do in a planned speech or in formal writing.




    We may start a sentence with one phrasing in mind, then halfway through change our mind slightly.
     
  3. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Then, do you mean that my reasoning is correct?
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  4. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a lot easier on the mouth and the ear to differentiate between the /r/ and /s/ in "there's" than between the /r/ and /r/ in "ther're".

    I would say that your reasoning would definitely apply in many situations, but in casual speech, you'll much more often hear "there's", whether the spaker planned the plural or not. I wouldn't use it in writing outside of dialogue, though.
     
  5. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks a lot, Etan Isar.
    Richard
     
  6. Ennui
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    Ennui Member

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    People posting a reply uses colloquial language,richard,your analysis and verdict are right.
     
  7. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    As above, I'd suggest this is a case of colloquial liaison and as such 'there are so many' has been (lazily) contracted into 'there (are) so many' = 'there's (so) many' - almost a transcript of contracting, liaison forming but natural speech. Failing that, the writer may just have got it wrong in terms of classical English Agreement alters in certain dialects and will feel natural to to what others would consider wrong.

    Your reasoning appears sound as per classic teaching and grammar and will as Etan suggest, cover most situations. In speech or casual forums these rules can and will be bent though. Good luck.
     
  8. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you all for your great help with this issue. I used to explain it to my students this way, but I was not so sure of my explanation. I was unable to seek assistance from native speakers then because I did not have a computer. But from now on, I will explain it this way with much confidence. I will read more books or articles on grammar of speech and writing. Thank you all for your time. Actually my gratitude is beyond words. The website is a great place to learn and enjoy English.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are formal and informal ways of talking in every language. In English, it often comes from what's easiest to say. As was said, you are technically correct, but people say "there's" when they mean "there are" often because they'd trip over the R's. It's a similar case with "Aren't I?" Technically, it should be "Am I not?", but that's too complicated to say.
     
  10. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks, Rei.
     

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