Student Stumper 8: THERE

QUESTION: This sentence doesn’t make sense: There’s a mistake here. How can there and here be in the same sentence? Is the mistake here or there?

ANSWER: Students first learn to use here and there to identify the location or proximity of a person or thing. In the following examples, here and there function as adverbs:

  • I live here.                           = in this place, in this town, in this house, etc.
  • Bob lives there.                = in that place, in that town, in that house, etc.

 

English has many informal, spoken uses of here and there that can confuse language learners, such as here you are, there you go, hi there, and here we go again. But one other standard use of there is to express the existence of a person or thing. We don’t have to teach the tongue-twisting term existential sentence, but we can explain that we need the help of there to state something is. In the following examples, there functions as the subject and has nothing to do with distance in terms of space or time:

 

  • There is a book on the table.      = The book exists, and it is on the table.
  • There are papers on the table. = The papers exist, and they are on the table.

 

You can write a sentence on the board with one misspelled word and ask students to identify the mistake. (I see books on the tabel.) Once they do, you can confirm the location of the mistake and point to it, saying, “Yes, there’s a mistake here.” Ask which word expresses location, here or there? They should now understand that here still functions as an adverb and there functions as the subject, helping us explain that a mistake exists somewhere.

 

Here are similar stumpers for you. Are any of the following sentences incorrect? If so, why? Post your answer, and I’ll tell you if I agree.

  1. There’s no reason to panic.
  2. There’s always lots of things to talk about.
  3. There is always something to do.
  4. There are never enough minutes in a day.
  5. There are two projects due this week.
  6. There are a business plan and a sales report due.  
  7. There is a business plan due on Wednesday and a sales report due on Friday.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Adrian says:

    Hello Jennifer! How are you doing?

    I think number two and number six are incorrect. Why?

    Because of the use of “there” with “is” and “are”, We use “There is” to express singular existences and in the other hand, number six sounds a bit strange, I think number seven has got the correct auxiliary verb which should be in number six.

    If I am right, good, If I’m not, good as well but please why?

    Greetings from here and now!🙂

  2. englishwithjennifer says:

    TWO – I agree that technically it’s incorrect, but the contraction THERE’S is commonly used in everyday speech to state the existence of objects in the plural.THERE’S LOTS OF EXAMPLES.

    SIX and SEVEN cause the most confusion, don’t they? I think many of us would simply avoid the construction and reword the thought:
    Our business plan and sales report are due this week. / The deadline for the business plan is Wednesday, and the sales report is due on Friday.

    If I had to choose, I’d use the singular IS in both 6 and 7. Think of this scenario. You’re asked to take inventory of the contents of your fridge:
    A) There is a bottle of ketchup, some butter, a dozen eggs…
    B) There are grapes, a bottle of ketchup, some butter…
    Both A and B sound right to me. I think it makes sense to choose the verb that agrees with the first item. The rest is understood.

    A) There is a bottle of ketchup, (there is) some butter, (there is) a dozen eggs, (there are) grapes…

    If there is at least one item in a series that is plural, I’d place that item first and use the plural verb, as I did in Example B. Then no one can question your grammar.🙂

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