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In what way is "are us" used? Like: what does "toys are us" mean.. Or what does "heavy weights are us" mean?

Does "are us" always refer to several people? Or can one also use it when referring just to oneself?

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It's invariably used in fairly lame "witty trading name/slogan" contexts, which as others have pointed out, all derive from the original "Toys R Us". The noun that precedes it is always something "we" (not "us") specialise in supplying.

I can easily imagine someone in a group of enthusiastic drinking buddies saying, for example "Alkies are us!", but after Googling "are us" -shopping and leafing through several pages of results, I have to say it's not exactly a commonplace idiomatic usage outside commercial contexts (that's to say, I didn't come across a single instance of anything 'non-commerical').

Grammatically speaking it's, well, not. You can say, for example, "We are human" in standard English, and "Human are we" in Yoda-speak, but "Human are us" is never going to cut it.

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Grammatically speaking it's fine: Toys (subject, plural) are (verb, plural) us (object, plural). Your "human" example doesn't apply because "human" is being used as an adjective in that context—that example's a totally different construction than "Toys are us". – andyvn22 Jan 26 '14 at 15:58
@andyvn22: I've no idea what you mean by "Grammatically speaking it's fine". The closest comparable usage I can think of is "Knock, knock!", "Who's there?", "It's us" (subject:singular, object:plural). To my mind, if there's a form of words that in principle ought to be commonly used, but in fact never actually is (except by way of echoing the quirky Toys R Us tradename), it seems reasonable to say that (idiomatically speaking) it must be "ungrammatical". Grammar describes what people say; it's not a pre-existing set of rules allowing forms no-one actually uses. – FumbleFingers Jan 26 '14 at 16:27
We are using the word "grammar" slightly differently then; in any case, my meaning was that while "us" as the object of "are" is not a common usage, it is not obviously nonsensical like your example is. It's interpretable as similar to "toys are dogs", whereas "human are us" is not (as there is no subject in the whole sentence)! – andyvn22 Jan 26 '14 at 17:34
@andyvn22: Ah, right. I see what you mean now. You're focussing on the we/us, subject/object aspect of grammaticality here. Interestingly, actual speakers don't seem to care much about that in some contexts (they're often just as happy with "It is I" as with "It is me"). On the other hand, I bet This is us, which has a truly dismal 3.8 stars on IMDB, would have got an even worse rating if it had been This is we or (God forbid! :) These are us. – FumbleFingers Jan 26 '14 at 17:50
There are quite a few contexts where “are us” would end up, though none is perhaps common. “They are us” is quite grammatical, for instance, as is “The only ones affected are us”. It would just be more natural in most cases to make switch subject and complement as part of the general tendency for pronouns to prefer occupying the least marked element in a sentence. @andyvn There is no such thing as “the object of are”: the verb be does not take objects. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 6 '14 at 0:00

If you accept the first of the following then the rest follow in a similar pattern:

  • It is me
  • It is us
  • They are us
  • Toys are us

So the last is a possible response to the question "Who are toys?" but the shop's name is simply saying "You can buy toys here, as they are what we do."

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They are not all part of the same pattern. “It is me / us.” is a special construction that uses the empty “it”. Or do you think it’s normal to say, “Henry is me.”? – Pitarou Mar 3 '12 at 15:46
@Pitarou "Henry is me" works in response to "I just got a letter from some idiot called Henry" and usually produces profuse embarrassment and apologies – Henry Mar 3 '12 at 19:54
But "Toys are us" is semantically quite different. "They are us" and "Henry is me" are both identifying the referent of an existing expression whose referent is hitherto unknown. "Toys are us" is making a substantive claim, and arguably not one of identity. – Colin Fine Mar 4 '12 at 0:36
@Henry That’s not the English I speak! I’d say either “That’s me!” or “I’m Henry.” Maybe the coiner of “Toys Я Us” spoke a dialect similar to yours? – Pitarou Mar 4 '12 at 14:38
@Pitarou If someone asks Who's Henry? Then Henry's me! is a fine answer. Just a bit more unusual than I 'm Henry which requires contrastive stress on the I. – Araucaria Sep 6 '14 at 20:19

It clearly isn’t standard English grammar and, as others have pointed out, this form is hardly ever used except in shop names.

My best guess is that the founder started with “We are Toys”, and then experimented with ways of moving the word “Toys” to the beginning of the sentence to make it more prominent.

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"Toys/they are us" is NOT grammatically correct; 'us' in this case is a predicate nominative connected by the copula/linking verb form of to be and should therefore be 'we'; also “The only ones affected are we”...."we are the only ones affected". It just may sound strange to us because of pervasive, informal (incorrect) usage (thanks to the help of such store names!)

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Toy are us Toys in the store talking to you guys "you can buy toys in other place but if you are looking for real toys toys are us"

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Please improve the formatting of this answer. A little more content wouldn't go amiss either. – Matt E. Эллен Sep 6 '14 at 0:13
Or you could delete this answer. You are now eligible to win the "Peer Pressure" badge. (But you might want to acquire the "Informed" one, too.) – Scott Sep 6 '14 at 0:20

In the store name, it is not "are" but a backward letter R.
enter image description here

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-1: the name of the store is a clear pun on "toys are us", so much that even on their website you can see it spelled are Toys"R"Us. – nico Mar 3 '12 at 14:25
So much so that the ARE was shortened to R when the founder of the company opened a store and the original name could not fit on the store's sign. Source answers.com – Laure Mar 3 '12 at 14:41
That’s really not helpful. It’s perfectly clear that the ‘Я’ is meant to mean ‘are’. – Pitarou Mar 3 '12 at 15:37

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