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What are the roots of the creeping usage of "there's" for both singular and plural predicates? (This seems to be more common in spoken English.) I have 2 theories. Perhaps it is because spoken communication our society is becoming less formal by the day. Or perhaps it is a reflection of speakers of other languages having increasing contact with native English speakers. I am aware of German "es gibt" and Spanish "hay" constructions. Please comment.

3/06/14 I ran a couple of Google Ngrams and was surprised to find a greater rise in the use of "there's" in English fiction than in general English language books, since the turn of the century. This would seem to support my contention that informality is behind the shift.

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    There doesn't need to be any number agreement for the existential construction. In German, for instance, one says Es gibt 'It gives', and the noun that follows is either singular or plural without needing agreement. That's the reason it's disposable. The reason it's spreading is that it's a contraction, which makes it easier and popular, and there's no good contraction for there are. You can write there're, but how do you pronounce it? Contractions are created by speech, and only reluctantly used in writing. One hears There's some people here and everybody understands. That's all. – John Lawler Feb 22 '14 at 22:27
  • There's may also have influence from dialects that use is and was for plural nouns (they is, you was, &c.). Also, I cannot speak for everyone, but I pronounce there're as something like there-urr. – Anonym Feb 23 '14 at 3:10
  • Dunno the reason, but I have the same impression, both from hearing people around me (in the States) and from watching TV (in the States). (FWIW, I also sense that saying less instead of fewer for countable things is on the rise. And yes, I know that such a use of less also has a long history.) – Drew May 15 '14 at 2:32
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The contraction "there're" does get used but it seems entirely dependent on regional dialects and it isn't so much a strict contraction as the "e" and "a" can sound merged together when a fluent speaker is speaking quickly. Locally, I hear what would be more accurately be transcribed as "ther're".

I am a little hesitant to accept your premise that "there's" is becoming more common than "there're". Even if it was true, I suspect it would be regional.

But, as John Lawler notes in the comments:

There doesn't need to be any number agreement for the existential construction. In German, for instance, one says Es gibt 'It gives', and the noun that follows is either singular or plural without needing agreement. That's the reason it's disposable. The reason it's spreading is that it's a contraction, which makes it easier and popular, and there's no good contraction for there are. You can write there're, but how do you pronounce it? Contractions are created by speech, and only reluctantly used in writing. One hears There's some people here and everybody understands. That's all.

Some dialects have little troubling pronouncing "there're" and the rest would fully understand "There's some people here."

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I am now 75. For first 60 years of my life, EDUCATED people said there re when speaking of more than one item. There re was pronounced the SAME as the word there. Uneducated people said there's when referring to plural items. This has now changed and virtually everyone says there's which is incorrect. Frankly, I find this changed circumstance infuriating.

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    And that's why we love English! It's always changing, it never fossilizes. Remember Latin? :) – Mari-Lou A Oct 29 '14 at 9:08
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I didn't notice this until one day when Sarah Michelle Gellar (playing Buffy Summer, of course) said, very slowly and clearly "There's" with some plural predicate I can't remember. At the time, I thought it was some affectation of the 'Buffyverse,' but once my ears were opened, as it were, I realized that was, and had been used all the time, I just hadn't noticed. And I don't approve.

Already, although more rarely, it's turned into "There is several things...", negating the notion, which I've heard put forward, that this is a case of verb-object agreement following 'different rules for contractions. And the contagion creeps: I've heard "Here's" and "Where's," and their uncontracted equivalents used with plural predicates, not only on American television but on the BBC as well. And when you hear some Oxford professor on the History Channel, holding forth on matters of culture, say, in his plummiest accent, "There's several examples in Shakespeare of....", it's time to cry "Hold!"

The idea that is a 'new rule' that everybody must follow in order to be speaking correct English is, so to speak, crap. The fact that some grammarians accept it in informal speech doesn't make "there are" or "there're" (which I pronounce as "therror") incorrect. And 'Es gibt' is an idiom, and uses a transitive verb with a singular subject: 'es'. Do we not say 'The situation provides several benefits'? Would anyone say that's incorrect because the subject and the object don't agree in number? That rule doesn't even exist!

Let the people who smugly insist that 'between you and I' and 'I feel badly about that' are correct because they've become fashionable among the middle-class types go on saying 'there's several things'. I'm going to keep on screaming 'There are, you idiot!' at my TV set whenever I hear it, and correcting myself every time I catch myself using it.

I do, however, reserve the right to say "It don't make me no nevermind." I'm a Southerner.

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It's a colloquialism, and a verbal usage. It's not considered Standard English.

So saying it is fine, but writing it in an essay, report, or speech is not.

  • Please take a moment to find upvoted answers to see the type of answer this site is looking for. We also provide help on answering questions. Answers should ideally include some sort of independent corroboration, correctly referenced. – Andrew Leach Jul 26 '14 at 8:31
  • With respect, I see nothing wrong in my comment. It is a colloqualism and verbal speech, as it's normal to use things verbally informally, even if it's not Standard English. – DES-COA Aug 27 '16 at 10:52

protected by choster Oct 28 '14 at 22:05

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