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Rachael Starr has a song titled "Till there was you".

Shouldn't it be "Till there were you"? Why did she use it that way?

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Aack! Don't blame (credit) Rachel Starr! Written by Meredith Willson, I think. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Music_Man –  GEdgar Dec 13 '11 at 14:10
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6 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

First of all, "there were you" would sound completely barbarous spoken to a single individual, unless the singer was in love with and singing to, say, a whole platoon of Marines.

Second, this is a song lyric. Normal grammatical considerations do not apply.

Consider:

"It ain't necessarily so." — Ira Gershwin, Porgy and Bess

"I'm gonna love you till the stars fall from the sky — for you and I!" — Jim Morrison, Touch Me

Alone on an aeroplane / Fall asleep on against the window pane / My blood will thicken — Thom Yorke, The Bends

"We jammin'" — Bob Marley, "Jamming", Catch a Fire

Song lyrics are what they are. Whatever you think is wrong with the phrase "till there was you" — and I don't think anything is wrong with it — you shouldn't get bothered by what you hear in song lyrics, or poems for that matter.

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+1 for "we jammin!" :-) –  luketorjussen Dec 13 '11 at 14:32
    
+1 for "Normal grammatical considerations do not apply" And how. Poetic license is the for the James Bonds of Grammar ;-) –  mickeyf Dec 13 '11 at 14:50
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But this is really handwavy. There IS a grammatical explanation - "you" is not the subject of the verb "was" here. It's "you were there", but "there was you." (For the same reason, we say "it's me" or "it's I" when we answer the phone, not "it am I".) –  alcas Dec 13 '11 at 20:16
    
@alcas: "When mathematicians say 'hand-waving' [handwavy], disparagingly, about someone's work, it means that the person has: a) insight, b) realism, c) something to say, and it means that d) he is right because that's what critics say when they can't find anything more negative." — Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable –  Robusto Dec 15 '11 at 12:08
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Because you is not the subject in the sentence, it's an implied it that is the subject. The you is an object, in the same way as in It was you all along.

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When we say Till there were apples, we use were (please correct me if I'm wrong). Till there was apples seems wrong to me. So I thought were could be correct. –  Mehper C. Palavuzlar May 13 '11 at 8:52
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"Apples" is a plural object in "till there were apples". "You" is a singular object in "till there was you". It has nothing to do with "you were". –  teylyn May 13 '11 at 10:17
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N.B. in "there was you/them" the verb is singular, even if "you"/"them" refer to multiple people. –  Neil Coffey May 13 '11 at 13:00
    
@Guffa: This seems the correct answer in the best way to explain. –  Kris Dec 14 '11 at 6:00
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Because 'you' is a singular object. Before this time there was nothing, after it there was...X and in this case X is you.

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In the examples above, you and apples are not an objects, but rather a predicate nominatives. The verb should agree with the predicate nominative. Use were in both cases; with apples because it is plural, and with you because that's that how we conjugate you whether singular or plural.

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So it were you who wrote this answer?? –  TimLymington Dec 15 '13 at 18:51
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I have conjectured on this song title for about forty years. I've maintained that, weird as it sounds, "'Til There were You" would be the grammatically correct title. The subject of the clause is "you," which always takes a plural verb. As for poetic license to mangle the language, yes, the singer or poet is meant to be a character who may or may not use the best grammar. We're discussing, though, pure grammar in this song title, not what a particular character would probably say.

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I have also thought about this phrase for many years. The proper grammatical way would be "till there were you", but it sounds artificial. "It's I" sounds artificial to some people, but it is correct. "It's me" sounds colloquial, and for this song, I would go with artistic license and sounding colloquial.

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"It is I" has a justification, which one can accept or reject; see english.stackexchange.com/q/121198/8019. *"Till there were you" has no justification in grammar, let alone how it would sound. –  TimLymington Dec 15 '13 at 18:57
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