There is / There are > a table and four chairs.

  • coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    (There is / There are) a table and four chairs.
    Can I use "There is" or "There are" in this sentence?
    Please discuss on this!
    Thank you!
    tallspring, welcome to the forum!

    You can use either. Number is usually clear in English sentences, but there are many that are unclear, and if you survey English speakers you will often find a 50-50 (or otherwise) division between those who choose singular and those who choose plural.

    You found one example. Here are some others:

    Neither of them is (are) ready for marriage.
    Neither of them has (have) enough money to afford a car.
    He is one of the best students that has (have) ever come to this school.
    I am one of those who favor (favors) equal rights.

    There may be several principles operating in the same sentence, yielding two possible results. Or there may be a conflict between syntactic and semantic aspects.

    Good question.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    I would say

    "there is a table and four chairs" - match the verb with the most immediate noun.

    Think of it with a comma... "there is a table, and four chairs too."
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    There are a table and four chairs. [five things, plural]
    There was a table with four chairs. [a four-chair table, singular]
    Neither of them is ready for marriage. [neither one, singular]
    Neither of them has enough money to afford a car. [neither one, singular]
    He is one of the best students that have ever come to this school. [of all this school's attenders, plural]
    I am one of those who favor equal rights. [of all the equal rights advocates, plural]
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Zynnethrine, I've merged your thread with one of the many other previous ones on this topic. You might want to see if any of the previous posts answers your question. The short answer is: It depends. :)

    JustKate, moderator
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Welcome to the forum, Zynnethrine. :)

    Assuming your sentence starts with a phrase such as "Downstairs, . . . " (we do like to see a whole sentence), since you've listed more than one area, the grammatically correct answer would be are.

    P.S.: You don't say what variety of English you speak, and I've never heard "toyroom"; we'd say playroom. And as an advocate of the serial, or Oxford, comma, I'd add a comma after "living room".
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Just by way of reinforcing what the previous posters have said there, I'd disagree with Parla on this and I'd use the singular: "there is a kitchen, [a] living room and [a] toy/playroom." As there's only one of each type of room, it sounds odd to me to use a plural verb.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    It really could go either way. In theory, the plural verb ought to be correct because a kitchen, living room and toy room are three different things, but in practice, it's just not that easy. For example, a speaker might say the sentence you have, Zynnethrine, but what he's thinking is "There is a kitchen, (and there is) a living room, (and there is) a toy room," in which case it would be natural for him to say is.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Good point, Kate. Not only is it what he's thinking, but it's also a legitimate grammatical device: ellipsis (of the type that linguists sometimes call 'stripping').

    So if we assume that there's ellipsis, then the singular "there is" is correct. If we assume there's no ellipsis, then the plural "there are" is correct.

    Since there's no way of determining that there is or isn't ellipsis, I conclude that either is correct.

    For the example of "a table and four chairs", I agree with Forero (and with all his other examples): it's "There are a table and four chairs". Here, "there is" doesn't work, because ellipsis would normally require a parallel construction, so we would have "There is a table and (there is) four chairs".

    That said, the contraction "there's" is very commonly used in colloquial speech for "there is" and for "there are". So "There's a table and four chairs" is not uncommon, and, I would suggest, it sounds less unnatural than "there is" in that sentence.

    Ws:)
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Just by way of reinforcing what the previous posters have said there, I'd disagree with Parla on this and I'd use the singular: "there is a kitchen, [a] living room and [a] toy/playroom." As there's only one of each type of room, it sounds odd to me to use a plural verb.
    I agree with you and would go further: the indefinite article here has the nuance of "one" and it qualifies each item separately.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Actually, Paul, I don't find the use of the indefinite article just once (for three things) very natural in this sentence. I wouldn't say "He has a dog, cat and goldfish", but "He has a dog, a cat and a goldfish".

    The common exception is when two or more things form a recognised single entity: a pony and trap, a knife and fork, etc. But I don't see "a kitchen, living room and toyroom" as such a fixed item.

    In fact the omission of the second and third articles, combined with the singular "is", might even lead to ambiguity. I could well imagine it referring to a small one-up/one-down house, where the room on the ground floor is "
    a kitchen, living room and toyroom". Whereas "a kitchen, a living room and a toyroom" suggests there are three separate rooms.

    Ws
    :)



     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    How about these two sentences:

    1) There is bread, oranges and three apples on the table.

    2) There are bread, oranges and three apples on the table.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    There's bread, oranges, and three apples on the table.
    There are three apples, some oranges, and a loaf of bread/some bread on the table.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Also: There is one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread/some bread on the table.

    Right?
    Not where I come from.

    "One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread" is always plural.

    "There's" is an alternative way, in speech, to say "there are", but "there is" is not:

    One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread are on the table.:tick:
    One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread is on the table.:cross:

    There are on the table <> one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread.:tick:
    There is on the table <> one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread.:cross:


    There were never one apple, some oranges, and a load of bread on the table.:tick:
    There was never one apple, some oranges, and a load of bread on the table.:cross:

    There are one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread on the table.:tick:
    There is one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread on the table.:cross:


    <>Edited at posters request to remove extraneous 'are'. Cagey, moderator >
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Not where I come from.

    "One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread" is always plural.

    "There's" is an alternative way, in speech, to say "there are", but "there is" is not:
    I agree that the whole sentence would sound better starting with "There's..."

    But where I come form, it sounds odd to start a sentence with "There are one apple, [and any number of other things]". As it evidently does to nzfauna (post #3).
     
    Last edited:

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Not where I come from.

    "One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread" is always plural.

    "There's" is an alternative way, in speech, to say "there are", but "there is" is not:

    One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread are on the table.:tick:
    One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread is on the table.:cross:

    There are on the table are one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread.:tick:
    There is on the table are one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread.:cross:


    There were never one apple, some oranges, and a load of bread on the table.:tick:
    There was never one apple, some oranges, and a load of bread on the table.:cross:

    There are one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread on the table.:tick:
    There is one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread on the table.:cross:
    I agree that the whole sentence would sound better starting with "There's..."

    But where I come form, it sounds odd to start a sentence with "There are one apple, [and any number of other things]". As it evidently does to nzfauna (post #3).
    Would it be the difference between AE and BE?
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Would it be the difference between AE and BE?
    It might be, or it might be just a matter of personal choice.

    I checked in our site's own dictionary, where a usage note says:

    (7). When a compound subject contains both singular and plural words, the verb usually agrees with the subject closest to the verb, although a plural verb sometimes occurs regardless, especially if the compound has more than two elements:There were staff meetings and a press conference daily. There was(or were) a glass, two plates, two cups, and a teapot on the shelf.
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It might be, or it might be just a matter of personal choice.

    I checked in our site's own dictionary, where a usage note says:

    (7). When a compound subject contains both singular and plural words, the verb usually agrees with the subject closest to the verb, although a plural verb sometimes occurs regardless, especially if the compound has more than two elements:There were staff meetings and a press conference daily. There was(or were) a glass, two plates, two cups, and a teapot on the shelf.
    Got it. Thank you very much.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Not where I come from.

    "One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread" is always plural.

    "There's" is an alternative way, in speech, to say "there are", but "there is" is not:

    One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread are on the table.:tick:
    One apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread is on the table.:cross:

    There are on the table <> one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread.:tick:
    There is on the table <> one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread.:cross:


    There were never one apple, some oranges, and a load of bread on the table.:tick:
    There was never one apple, some oranges, and a load of bread on the table.:cross:

    There are one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread on the table.:tick:
    There is one apple, some oranges, and a loaf of bread on the table.:cross:


    <>Edited at posters request to remove extraneous 'are'. Cagey, moderator >
    :thumbsup: My BE ear agrees with Forero's :tick:s and :cross:s, but in practice I think I would rephrase most of the sentences (though in fact in some cases I'd use "there's" instead):


    There are some oranges, an apple, and a loaf of bread on the table.
    There were never any oranges, apples, or loaves of bread on the table.

    When there doesn't seem to be any particular reason for the order of items in a list, one is free to rearrange them to eliminate any awkwardness.
     
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