My WordChecker marked this sentence as erroneous, stating that "are" should be "is":

Listed below are some typical courses of a J.D. program.

Yet when I replace "Listed Below" with "There", the blue underline disappears. Why is this? Using "is" would sound wrong to me.

  • 9
    This is a problem with your grammar checker, not a problem with your sentence.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 23 '17 at 20:03
  • Grammar checkers are computer programs, with all the limitations that entails. They are incapable of rational (or even irrational) thought. They have a finite set of rules they can apply to an input, and that’s it. Correctly parsing human language remains far beyond the capabilities of machine code. If something sounds grammatical to you and your grammar checker claims it should be replaced by something that sounds ungrammatical to you, you can be almost entirely certain that you are right and the grammar checker is wrong every time. Oct 23 '17 at 22:00

Since the question is not only about why the grammar checker errs with "Listed below are" but also about why it gets "There are" right, let me offer a plausible explanation of the difference. As Janus Bahs Jacquet said in a comment, we are dealing with a computer program, consisting of certain rules for what to underline (and what "corrections" to propose). The phrase "There are" is so common that a reasonable programmer would probably provide a rule saying that, instead of considering "There" to be the subject of "are", the computer should look for a noun phrase after "There are" to serve as the subject. A similar rule would, of course, be appropriate for the phrase "Listed below are" as well as for numerous other phrases, like "Better yet are" and "Visible on the horizon are". The problem is that there are so many such phrases, and any one of them occurs only rather rarely. So it would take a lot of work to either incorporate them all into a program or develop some general rule to cover them all. As a result, we get programs that can handle the most common cases, like "There are" (and probably "Where are" and a few others) but give incorrect results on rarer phrases.

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