6

As an example, consider the two sentences:

There don't seem to be any doctors here.

and

There doesn't seem to be any doctors here.

To my ear, the first sounds great, and the second is painfully awkward.

So which is correct, grammatically? I've found lots of disagreement on this around the Web, with various sources citing different ways of treating the word "any" (as singular, always, or as either depending on to what it refers). No consensus, however, could I locate.

3
  • 2
    Can we just agree to say "There seem to be no doctors here"?
    – Myridium
    Apr 7 '18 at 2:49
  • "There don't seem to be any doctors here" or "There doesn't seem to be any doctor here." Not "There doesn't seem to be any doctors here." Your intuition about the treatment of "any" is getting close, but it may be clearer to think of it as "any doctors" (plural) versus "any doctor" (singular). Even clearer to see the difference if you just drop the "any" altogether (i.e., "any doctors" -> "doctors" and "any doctor" -> "a doctor").
    – Noyo
    Jan 9 '20 at 12:50
  • "It seems there are no doctors here", "No doctors seem to be here", "Where are the dratted doctors?"
    – Ben
    Jul 6 at 19:57
8

The relevant article in ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ says:

Existential there couples with either singular or plural verbs (there is / there are, according to the following noun phrase) . . . This formal agreement is strictly maintained in academic writing. But in narrative and everyday writing, there is and especially there’s is found even with plural nouns.

The same consideration applies to There don’t and There doesn’t. What it means for your examples is that it all depends on the context in which they are being used. In practice, such a sentence would almost certainly be spoken rather than written, making the choice unimportant. If the second is likely to damage your hearing, then don’t use it, and stay away from those who do.

1

I would suggest that ”don’t” refers to all the doctors, that is to say, none of them seem to be here.

”Doesn’t”, on the other hand, refers to a state of affairs, in other words it isn’t so (that any doctors are here).

0

The main verb in both sentences is 'SEEM', not 'BE'; therefore, I would say, "There doesn't seem".

1
  • 3
    "No doctors seem to be here", so "There don't seem to be any doctors here." The verb may be "seem", but the subject is still "doctors". Apr 10 '14 at 17:42
-1

There doesn't seem to be any milk sounds better to me because milk is singular. On the other hand, there don't seem to be any cows sounds better to me, because cows is plural. I use "is" because I'm referring to the one word "cows", not the multitude of the actual bovines.

1
  • Actually "milk" in that case is neither singular nor plural, it's non-count.
    – smithkm
    Apr 10 '14 at 18:26
-1

Although to me the second one sounds grammatically right over the first, I'd prefer to use neither of them but instead rephrase and say "there seems to be no doctor/doctors" - Sounds uncomplicated.

-2

Both are correct. You can say there is a guy out there or there are guys out there. I don't know why it hurts your ears. They don't hurt mine :)

3
  • 1
    There isn't any doctors OR There aren't any doctors? There don't seem to be many people OR There doesn't seem to be many people? There don't seem to be any milk OR There doesn't seem to be any milk? Are they all correct?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 12 '13 at 11:14
  • @Mari-LouA I think so. There doesnt seem to sounds better than the other but that doesnt mean the second is incorrect. It's jsut less common and less idiomatic.
    – Noah
    Nov 12 '13 at 11:32
  • Maybe it's an AmEng thing, but I feel more comfortable saying "doesn't seem any".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 12 '13 at 11:36

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