The existential 'there' is usually followed by a form of the verb 'to be', used as a pure copula.

For instance, rather than saying, a wrench is on the bench, you'd say there's a wrench on the bench.

Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002) list a number of syncategorematic/copular verbs which can also follow the existential 'there', eg:

There used to be a house ... there's supposed to be a plot ... there seems to have been a mistake ... there's said to be a ghost ...

They don't make a distinction which I've noticed about what I call 'emergent-type' verbs, always used in the past, describing, as I see it, an action which has emerged, but seems as yet incomplete, eg:

...there arose such as clatter ... there appeared a great multitude ... there emerged, out of the freshly tilled soil, ...

I noticed today another type which I hadn't clocked before ... the use of the intransitive after 'Once upon a time', eg:

Once upon a time, there lived ...

I can't think of an instance where you'd use a transitive verb in this construction.

Are there any other types of verbs that can follow the existential 'there' in declarative sentences that you know of that I can add to my list?

  • 1
    There-Insertion, as the rule is known, works with most locative verbs and quite a few others. It's discussed in Levin's book on Verb Classes and Alternations, and I made a homework problem out of the list given there. Mar 22, 2014 at 21:40
  • Your first list is not actually about other verbs that can follow there: in each of those cases, there still goes with be, it's just that a raising verb has stepped in to obscure this.
    – ruakh
    Mar 23, 2014 at 6:49
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    Also, for your second list, it's not true that these are only found in the past; we can also say "if there should arise [...]", "soon there will emerge [...]", and so on. (These are well-attested.) I think what you're sensing is that these verbs are perfective in sense. Perfective verbs are less common in the present tense, because they can't describe ongoing states; but they can appear in the present, e.g. when describing a repeated event: "every day, there appears [...]".
    – ruakh
    Mar 23, 2014 at 6:53
  • By the way, you might be interested in the definitions and examples at en.wiktionary.org/wiki/there#Pronoun. (Full disclosure: I wrote them, several years ago.) The (not very detailed) breakdown there, which I still agree with, takes a different approach than yours, which is why I can't answer your question about "other types of verbs": your taxonomy is such that it's incomplete, but I don't see how to complete it compatibly.
    – ruakh
    Mar 23, 2014 at 7:03
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    exist/remain/arise/occur/follow/ensue,... all of which, except ensue are in the source which the answer by F. E. copies from. Apr 12, 2016 at 20:45

1 Answer 1


You might be interested in the related topic of the presentational construction.

In form, the presentational construction uses the dummy pronoun "there" as subject but some other verb than BE as the main verb. E.g. "There remain only two further issues to discuss"; "There seems little doubt that the fire was started deliberately."

Some verbs (and verbal idioms) in this construction are: appear, arise, arrive, develop, emerge, enter, escape, follow, grow, lie, live, loom, occur, persist, sit, spring up, sprout, stand. Many of these verbs have to do with being in a position or coming into view.

Most presentational clauses are of the bare type or have a locative extension. (But there are exceptions, e.g. "There remain only two further issues to discuss."; "There remained only two officers alive.)

There are some differences in pragmatic constraints between presentationals and existentials. One difference is that definite noun phrases occur more readily as the "displaced subject" in presentationals than in existentials.

Note: The info and examples in my post are borrowed from the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, pages 1402-3.

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