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In a Lynda.com tutorial I came across such a sentence: "In camera uploads (folder) are all the photos that I had in my iPad". Instead, I would have probably said: "In camera uploads there are ...." Is that also correct?

To generalize, I put the question this way:

  1. Inside the box there were five apples.
  2. Inside the box were five apples.

Are they synonymous? Is there a slight or bigger difference? When do we choose one over the other? According to my research, they are both valid constructions. But when I asked a native British person, he said that he would never use the second construction because it seemed odd to him. I'm pretty confident with using 1st construction, whereas I'm not sure with the second one. Maybe they are synonymous in meaning but different stylistically. If so, please confirm. And it seems to me that 1st construction is much more frequent than 2nd one. Please confirm or contradict.

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    "Here be dragons" or "Here there be dragons"? The first is certainly the traditional way of saying it, and the second one is a more modern way of saying it. Since the correct modern way of saying it is "here there are dragons", it says something that people are sticking a "there" in but still using "be". – Peter Shor Jun 9 '14 at 13:21
  • And here be Ngrams showing that people are quite often putting in the "there" but still using "be". – Peter Shor Jun 9 '14 at 13:25
  • Both versions (#1, #2) are grammatical, and both are commonly used. Different contexts might prefer one version over the other. It is an issue of information packaging, which involves how the writer wishes to present the info to the reader, and which involves whether the bits of info are old or new. Syntactically, your #2 version involves subject-dependent inversion; your #1 version involves an existential construction ("there was X") with fronting of a dependent ("inside the box"). There are a lot of similarities between the two. – F.E. Jun 9 '14 at 16:39
  • But, for your "uploads folder" example, you'll have to evaluate them specifically as to their meaning. Compare: "In the folder are all the photos that I had in my iPad" vs In the folder there are all the photos that I had in my iPad"; you'll have to see which one sounds better in the context they are being used in. For instance, if you had already recently mentioned your iPad photos, then the 2nd version (with the existential "there") might not sound acceptable. – F.E. Jun 9 '14 at 18:40
  • Notice that there is also the different: "There in the folder are all the photos that I had in my iPad". -- That is a different construction (than the existential). – F.E. Jun 9 '14 at 18:44
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Any of these forms would be correct:

  1. Inside the box there were five apples.
  2. Inside the box were five apples.
  3. There were five apples inside the box.
  4. Inside the box there are five apples.
  5. Inside the box are five apples.
  6. There are five apples inside the box.

Examples (1-3) all mean the same thing. Examples (4-6) all mean the same thing.

I'm pretty confident with using 1st construction, whereas I'm not sure with the second one. Maybe they are synonymous in meaning but different stylistically. If so, please confirm. And it seems to me that 1st construction is much more frequent than 2nd one. Please confirm or contradict.

There isn't a significant difference in meaning but using "there" is more common. The removal of "there" makes the sentence sound slightly more informal but in AmE both sentences would be immediately understood.

  • There isn't any difference in meaning. There-Insertion is almost always optional when used with a locative (as it almost always is), and transformations don't change meaning, so what you get is two totally equivalent sentences that differ only in stress and intonation pattern. Pick whichever you like. – John Lawler Jun 25 '14 at 17:56
  • @JohnLawler: Yes. Was my post unclear? I was not trying to suggest that there was any difference in meaning. – MrHen Jun 25 '14 at 17:58
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I have no solid evidence to back this up, but here's what I think the difference is:

Inside the box there were five apples.

End of story.

People generally use this syntax when there's nothing to add.

Inside the box were five apples.

Two of them were red.

People generally use this syntax when they have something to add to the assertion.

This is not a rule, and examples contradicting what I just said are fairly common.

Again, this is just my personal opinion. Grammatically they're both correct. And as pointed out, the second one is a more modern form.

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Disclaimer: I'm no Grammar Nazi, but I do live near the Grammar Death Camp.

When I read your OP:

"In a Lynda.com tutorial I came across such a sentence: "In camera uploads (folder) are all the photos that I had in my iPad". Instead, I would have probably said: "In camera uploads there are ...."

I immediately saw an opportunity for confusion here (place emphasis on italicized parts):

"In camera uploads (folder) are all the photos that I had in my iPad"

vs.

"In camera uploads (folder) are all the photos that I had in my iPad"

...in other words, I saw the author specifying which the uploads folders, calling one of them the one created in the camera itself. Like the difference between:

"In camera uploads"

...and...

"On computer uploads"

I don't have anything Apple, so this may appear silly to an Apple person! :)

I think I might write too many docs/instructions... :)

pat :)

  • This doesn't seem to be addressing the "there was" or "was" part of the question. I don't think the asker was looking for general proofreading advice. – MrHen Jun 25 '14 at 17:46

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