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there is/are an old man and a young woman

Discussion in 'English Only' started by bravo.nivia, Oct 9, 2008.

  1. bravo.nivia Junior Member

    spanish
    i guess its right if i say: there is an old man and a woman.
    because i'm talking about two things of a different gender?
    or i shall say, there're an old man and a woman. ?
     
  2. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Welcome to the forum, Bravo.

    Do you have context? Neither version sounds like a complete sentence to me.
     
  3. bravo.nivia Junior Member

    spanish
    Hi, thanks a lot for replying.

    No. I have no context for this sentence. Just that, I was teaching this at school and then, this doubt came to my mind. I didn't know which one is correct. I mean, we're talkin about two different thigs, on one side, the old man and, on the other side, the woman. so, if I wanted to describe, just a picture or something, which one would I use: there is/ are an old man and a young woman?
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2008
  4. bumcheck New Member

    Iowa
    USA, English
    You could say: "There is an old man and a young woman in this photo."

    But changning around the word order you could also say:
    "An old man and a young women are in this photo."

    Starting a sentence with "there are a" sounds unnatural as 'are' indicates plurality and 'a' is singular.

    Hope this helps!
     
  5. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The correct form would be "There are an old man and a young woman in this picture."

    In speech, we sometimes say "there's" for euphony. In the history of both Spanish and English, s sometimes becomes r, and sr and rs become rr, but in this case, the double re (syllabic r) sounds awkward and "there's" seems like a reasonable alternative.

    In writing, we try to make our meaning clear visually and usually choose not to contract "there are".

    English nouns do not have gender, so that is not an issue, but for completeness I'll mention that a phrase that is plural in form can sometimes be singular in notion and we will then use it with a singular verb. For example, in a (rare) context in which the subject "an old man and a young woman" means any of the following, the verb will be singular: "the marriage of an old man and a young woman", "the fact that an old man and a young woman are there", "the example of an old man and a young woman", "a couple consisting of an old man and a young woman", "an old man accompanied by an young woman" (and can sometimes mean with).
     
  6. chajadan Senior Member

    The most common use is: "There is a man and a woman in this photograph". However note, "There are two people in this fotograph."

    "There is a man and a woman" can be seen as short for "There is a man and there is a woman".

    --charlie
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2008
  7. bravo.nivia Junior Member

    spanish
    Thanks for taking your time to reply my question.

    However, which one would it be correct?

    Because, FORERO says he would use THERE ARE (which corresponds to a correct use of grammar because we are talking about two people) and CHAJADAN-BUMCHECK would use THERE IS (There is a man. There is a woman)

    I'm confused.
     
  8. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Erm, fotograph, Charlie?:eek:
     
  9. Meow-meow

    Meow-meow Junior Member

    Chinese
    I think "There are " is correct because we are referring to 2 people here.
     
  10. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Welcome to the forum, Bravo.Nivia, Bumcheck, and Meow-Meow.

    I would say "Are there a man and a woman in this picture?" and "Are a man and a woman supposed to be in this picture?". "Are a" in context does not seem unnatural to me.
    A compound subject with plural meaning would normally take a plural verb: "A man and a woman are in this photo" takes are and means the same as "A man is in this photo and a woman is in this photo."
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2008
  11. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    I find "there are a man and a woman" to be uncomfortable to say or to read. I most certainly would opt for "there is a man and a woman in the picture". I would say "there are two people", but equally I have no idea why there is the difference.
     
  12. Black Opal

    Black Opal Senior Member

    Italy
    United Kingdom, English/Italian Speaker
    I agree with gasman.
    My natural instinct would be to start the sentence with 'there is'.
     
  13. Grumpy Old Man Senior Member

    Liberal grammarians accept both: There is/are a man and a woman in this picture.
     
  14. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Whether to say there is or there are depends on the notional meaning of the subject, on whether the words are written or spoken, and on the importance of the "flow" of the sentence ("there's" is faster and simpler to say than "there are" or even "there're").

    If a(n) implies "one" and and means "plus", then a man and a woman = 1 + 1 = 2, which is plural.

    However, if and means "with", then a man and a woman = a man with a woman = 1 (with another) = 1, which is singular. I have already mentioned other singular notions that can be expressed as "a man and a woman". With a singular notion, there is is the right choice.

    If instead we assume a plural subject, we should theoretically have "there are", which to me naturally contracts to "there're" in speech. But if a native speaker's instincts say "there're" sounds bad in spite of the plural subject, "there's" is workable for that speaker, provided the meaning is clear, and it makes sense for that speaker to write "there is" for this plural "there's".

    For plural of "there is/are", I write "there are" in formal contexts, and I usually say "there are" or "there're" in speech, but I have come to accept others saying "there's" for plural because it does make some sense, phonologically speaking, as I have explained.

    There are a lot of commonly accepted contractions in English with illogical pronunciations, and there is much regional variation in what is considered natural for contractions. Some experts object to "there's" for plural just as some object to "ain't" for "am not". Some experts object to any contractions at all in formal writing except o'clock, cannot, and possessive forms. There is not even complete agreement among professional native English speakers and writers on the use of -'s in possessives.

    Remember that English nouns do not have grammatical gender, and notional gender (sex) affects only personal pronouns, not verbs.

    I hope all this helps you pick the right verb for your context.
     

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