There is a bird in the sky.
There are two birds in the sky.
The structure of there is/there are is very simple:
Notice that normal word order (subject-verb) is reversed or inverted (verb-subject). The word there is not the subject. It is important to identify the subject and make sure that the verb agrees with it.
Look at these examples with singular subject and singular verb:
|There||‘s||some||milk||in the fridge.|
|–||There||is||n’t||any||money||in the bank.|
Here are examples with plural subject and plural verb:
|+||There||are||two||boys||in the garden.|
- There was a noise in the night.
- There were lots of people at the party.
- There have been complaints about you recently.
- There will have been lots of people at the party so you’ll need to tidy the room in the morning.
There is with singular subject series
We use there is before a series of singular subjects. Look at these examples:
- There is fruit, bread and wine on the table.
- There’s a cup of coffee and some sugar on the table.
- There’s a red car and a blue car outside.
There is fruit, bread and wine on the table.
There is fruit, there is bread and there is wine on the table.
There is/are with mixed subject series
Sometimes we have a series of subjects that are mixed – singular and plural. In informal speech, the verb then agrees with the nearest subject. Look at these examples:
- There’s a girl and two boys outside.
- There are two boys and a girl outside.
- There’s some wine and two apples on the table.
- There are two apples and some wine on the table.
Note that this is common usage in informal speech only. It is not recommended for formal English such as essay-writing in an exam.
There is/are + lots of
Do we use there is or there are with lots of or a lot of? It depends on the noun: if it is singular, use there is; if it is plural, use there are:
- There are lots of dogs in the street.
- There’s a lot of snow outside.
- There’s two boys in the garden.
- There’s two boys and a girl outside.
- There’s a lot of dogs in the street.
This is increasingly common in British and American English, but it is not recommended in formal situations.