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A phrase I came across tonight was "Here's the good news and the bad news." Trouble is, "Here's" means "Here is", and "is" is meant for one thing, not two things. I'm describing two things. However, "Here are the good news and the bad news" sounds bizarre.

What to do?

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I, for one, don't think it sounds bizarre at all – a little stiff, perhaps, but that's due to the repetition of 'the' and failure to contract. :) Then again, I also think of 'news' as retaining its original plural sense in addition to the newer singular one. –  Terry N Apr 10 at 10:04

10 Answers 10

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Lots of idiomatic usages are "grammatically incorrect". You can analyse this particular one to find supposed justifications for it being in some way "grammatical", but the fact of the matter is even educated speakers commonly say things like Here's John and Mary, and Where's the scissors?

Part of what's involved here is proximity agreement (aka the proximity principle) which causes us to inflect the verb according to the first subject, even if there are others following.

I believe it's also relevant that we tend to do this more often when the subjects ("subject", with something like scissors which are grammatically plural but semantically singular) are perceived as a single thing. Thus, "the news" is effectively one thing containing some good and some bad parts. And John and Mary are being spoken of as one couple arriving, rather than two separate people.

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Yes, I think this is right. The Cambridge Grammar Of The English Language refers to such usage as a "singular override" and goes on to state: " ... the subject is conceptualized as a single unit and this determines the singular verb." (p507) –  Shoe Jan 14 '12 at 19:37
    
This. A list of singular items may simply sound as if each element is being addressed individually by the copula. –  Robusto Jan 14 '12 at 21:40
    
@Robusto: Was that also from the Cambridge Grammar? It seems sound to me, and it's effectively a third reason why we often do this, even if we know full well we're exposing ourselves to pedantic criticism. Particularly if you could quote support, I wouldn't mind adding that to the answer itself. –  FumbleFingers Jan 14 '12 at 22:06

I perceive it as "Here's the good news and [here is] the bad news."

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Ah, so the dropped words that are implied. Sounds valid. –  Volomike Jan 18 '12 at 2:37
    
That's hardly the point of the question. Switch to Barrie's 'Here's a few ideas ...' which is at least colloquially acceptable, and this specious analysis fails. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 10 at 13:31

It rather looks as if here's, like there's, is becoming an invariable expression, used to introduce either one or several things, events or ideas. So we might say 'Here's a few ideas to throw around', just as we might say 'There's a pub, a railway station and a shop in my village'.

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Certainly your examples do sound much more natural than saying ‘here are’ (or its contraction) would. Thanks — I’ve been looking for those, actually. –  tchrist Jan 15 '12 at 15:46
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Arnold Zwicky is apparently the man to credit with the bold assertion that "there's" + <plural noun phrase> should really be characterized, in current English, as merely informal/colloquial, rather than nonstandard. Millions of people (like me) who wouldn't use "there is two people at the door" are entirely happy with "there's two people at the door". –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 11 at 19:51
    
Pam Peters in ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ (2004) probably got there before him: ‘These various uses of there’s with plural (or notionally plural) noun phrases show how the structure is working its way into the standard. It seems to be evolving into a fixed phrase, rather like the French C’est . . . , serving the needs of the ongoing discourse rather than the grammar of the sentence.’ –  Barrie England Apr 12 at 5:59

The people who say 'It's 100% wrong' or the equivalent are self-appointed arbiters. Here is a less arrogant stance given as long ago as 2005 on EnglishForums [tidied]:

"There/Here is" with plural subject: [is this] allowed?

Please help [me] to decide. Is it just a common mistake, that even native English speakers make, or is it actually correct English? And if so, when is it appropriate to use this form?

Thanks in advance

Ralf 2nd January 2005

REPLY Mister Micawber: Hi Ralf,

[It is] still considered ungrammatical by many, and you would be wise to avoid [it] in careful writing. But the fact remains that the use of 'here/there is' (usually as 'here's/there's') with plural nouns is extremely common-- and acceptable-- informally. I use them myself frequently when I speak.

One might ask the prescriptivists whether they allow 'It's me' or 'It's us', as probably 99+% of natural speakers use them.

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Do you mean to imply that "It's me" and "It's us" violate subject–verb agreement? –  Terry N Apr 10 at 9:51
    
I mean to imply that they violate another shibboleth once equally vigorously championed (no objective case after the copula). Pope – sorry, Professor – Pullum has a strong recommendation on how to handle such people. 'It is us' arguably also violates the verb-complement agreement tradition. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 10 at 13:35

There are two issues here.

As it is,

"Here's the good news and the bad news."
is correct, seeing an ellipsis:
"Here's the good news and here's the bad news."

Furthermore, Here's/ Here it is are more idiomatic than they seem. So, sometimes it is a tendency to use the idiom before anything irrespective of whether it is singular or plural.

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No, "here's some tips" violates subject–verb agreement. The subject ("some tips") is plural, so a plural conjugation of the verb ('to be') must be used.

The sentence is an example of subject—verb inversion: the subject follows the verb. The un-inverted or canonical form is "some tips is here", which (I think) makes the grammatical incorrectness even more apparent.

The minimally different grammatically correct alternative would be "here're some tips"—"here're" being the contraction of "here are"—though I think some find that contraction awkward to pronounce and avoid it. Unfortunately, many avoid it by using "here's" rather than "here are"!

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Wait, so if many native speakers actually do this, how can you possibly call it ungrammatical? –  RegDwigнt Apr 10 at 9:07
    
@RegDwigнt: Because "correct" grammar isn't determined solely by popular usage today. It exhibits "stickiness", if you will, also being dependent upon usage in the past. Think exponential moving average. –  Terry N Apr 10 at 9:30
    
Even if that were true (which it really isn't, and in fact there can be no such thing as "correct grammar" by the definition of grammar), then you'd have just contradicted yourself. "Here's" is not "solely popular usage today". Have a look at Shakespeare ("Here's flowers for you", The Winter's Tale: IV, iv) or the King James Bible ("Here is the patience and the faith of the saints", Revelation 13:10). That's at least 403 years of stickiness. Certainly quite enough by anybody's standards. –  RegDwigнt Apr 10 at 10:00
    
@RegDwigнt: (Firstly, you seem to have misparsed my sentence. "[S]olely" described "determined", not "popular". I didn't say that such use of "(t)here's" was never popular before today.) If a particular construction were miraculously not used by any English speaker on the planet for a full day, you wouldn’t say it was gone from the grammar, would you? Explain why a given grammar isn’t seen as applying to just a single instant in time, consisting of only those constructions in the course of being used at that instant. That would be the logical consequence of grammar not being “sticky” at all. –  Terry N Apr 10 at 23:43
    
@RegDwigнt: Regarding "no such thing as 'correct grammar': The definition of grammar in colloquial usage is not nearly as relativistic as the one used by linguists (as described in the Answer you linked to) and it is by far the most popular. If you’re a fan of the pure “pattern of usage” framework, are you not compelled to recognize this as a perfectly valid definition of ‘grammar’? When you bristle at the prescriptive version of ‘grammar’, are you not essentially being prescriptive about vocabulary? –  Terry N Apr 10 at 23:53

I believe that this is because "news" is considered a noun itself while "good" is the adjective describing "news" which means that the singular of "be" (is) works in this situation.

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You didn't understand the question. It was about why do we use "is"(singular) for both "good news" and "bad news" (plural since we have 2 things) –  Theta30 Jan 14 '12 at 15:24

This is a great question. It really boils down to whether or not the community of speakers accepts a statement as valid or not. In this case, "Here's..." is what we accept. Remember that linguists describe usage, rather than prescribe it. It's really important to understand the previous sentence if one is going to approach language studies from a linguist's point of view. Imposing rules on a group of speakers is not in our job description, so to speak. The rules emanate from within, not without.

To rationalize what is going on in the sample sentence "Here's the good news and the bad news." I think we have to infer that "the news" here is presented as a single group of both the good and the bad.

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I think that is the result of ambiguity caused by sentence construction. It is possible to alter it using parallel structure. Parallel clauses:

Here is good news and here is bad news.

Parallel adjectives:

Here is good and bad news.

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I don't think Here is good and bad news gets around the issue. Consider "It's a nailbiting snooker final! There is white and black balls left!" That doesn't work because unlike news, we don't normally see balls as singular. –  FumbleFingers Jan 14 '12 at 22:20
    
@FumbleFingers: +1 for spot-on and amusing snooker example :) –  Lynn Jan 15 '12 at 6:45

English can use a plural after "it is": It's my children, said Mother Goat, as she saw something move in the Wolf's stomach. And I think it is the same with "here is/ there is".

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