I am currently working through "The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation" by Jane Straus. In the section on subject-verb agreement the author describes a rule for sentences that begin with "there" or "here" which claims that the true subject in these sentences will follow the verb.

In the exercises, there are two sentences where I am supposed to identify the subjects and verbs as well as correct any issues. There is one sentence in particular that is confusing me. The sentence "There's lots of food left" has the subject "lots" and according to the rules given should have the verb "are" but the book states that this is incorrect. The correct verb according to the book is "is". Why is this the case when there is a plural subject?

  • 7
    Throw the book away. It's wrong, and that's the reason why you're confused. Jane Straus didn't know what she was talking about, unfortunately. Even more unfortunately, anyone can publish a book about English grammar, whether they know anything about it or not. Most unfortunately of all, when they do, somebody will buy it, read it, and believe it. Sep 11, 2014 at 0:24
  • You might be interested in this question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/171703/there-is-there-are and the questions that are linked from it.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Sep 11, 2014 at 0:56
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    Premodifying prepositional phrases like a number of or a lot of or lots of or 25% of work like adjectives in that the do not change which word counts as the head noun of that noun phrase, and it is the head noun of the subject that the verb must agree with. Just think of all these as partitive determiners that you should completely ignore when figuring out the number of the verb. Don’t think of them as prepositional phrases at all, or you will make the wrong call.
    – tchrist
    Sep 11, 2014 at 2:47
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    @JohnLawler Let's not be over hasty here, I really don't believe that the author was talking about the existential dummy subject there she was talking about the so-called adverb/preposition. This is pretty clear from the fact that she coupled it with here. There goes the bell, for example. Sep 11, 2014 at 15:57
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    @JohnLawler Having done some research, I must abandon my benefit of the doubt and recommend some book binning Ouch Sep 11, 2014 at 20:48

3 Answers 3


Consider 'Lots of cheese is good for you' vs. 'Lots of cheeses are good for you.' The 'is' and 'are' cannot be interchanged.

Evidently the plurality of 'lots of X' is determined by X, not by 'lots.' Whether this rule 'makes sense' is another question, but so long as it holds, there is no contradiction with the other rule you described as applied to your problem case.


There is food left.

Food is a mass noun that does not have a plural sense the way people does. There are no discrete individuals in the concept of food (even though individual items could be intuited, such as steaks, ears of corn, etc.).

The sense of the sentence is there is food left. Lots of serves as a modifier of food, rather than of food being a modifier of lots.


There is a large quantity of food leftover.

[Mention the name of the container] ___________ has a lot of food left in it.

These are the 2 sentences that can be framed grammatically from the information mentioned above.

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