I saw some similar questions to mine posted but not quite the same. Which one of the below is correct?

There appears to be a couple discrepancies. There appear to be a couple discrepancies.

I went with the first one but dang-it I keep going back to it.

  • 1
    Verb agreement is dependent on the number of the complement of "be", which in this case is the plural "couple of discrepancies". The verb should thus be the plural "appear".
    – BillJ
    Jun 15, 2018 at 19:22
  • But verb agreement ex post facto is silly, and therefore the verb is at least as frequently appears between there and to be, no matter what quantifiers appear with the extraposed complement NP. Jun 15, 2018 at 20:17
  • @BillJ - the complement is "a couple [of] discrepancies" (don't omit the singular article). 'Containers' like 'couple' and 'bunch' do not link their members like 'pair', 'set', 'box', ...; so the plurality does shift (as you said) to the contents ("discrepancies").
    – AmI
    Jun 15, 2018 at 21:27
  • the plural of discrepancy is discrepancies guys... Jun 16, 2018 at 4:53
  • Compare "There appears to be a discrepancy" ~ "There appear to be a couple of discrepancies" (no different to "There is a discrepancy" ~ "There are discrepancies"). Of course you'll hear otherwise in casual speech, which I suspect is what JL is alluding to. See also vaughnmcbob1's correct answer below.
    – BillJ
    Jun 16, 2018 at 6:22

1 Answer 1


"There appear to be a couple discrepancies"

is the correct version because if you were to remove all the weirdness with "There" and "to be" to make the sentence be in active voice, basically the sentence is saying:

"A couple discrepancies appear"

if you were to replace "appear" with "appears" in that sentence, there would be a subject-verb agreement error:

"A couple discrepancies appears"

So "appear" is the correct choice for the original sentence.

  • 1
    "There appear to be a couple of discrepancies" is correct. "There appear to be a couple discrepancies" is not, and neither is "There appears to be a couple discrepancies".
    – tautophile
    Jun 16, 2018 at 5:00
  • You're right of course. The 'presentational' use of "there" is no different to the existential one. Agreement becomes even clearer with these attested examples form an impeccable source. "There seems little doubt that the fire was started deliberately"; "There remain only two further issues to discuss";
    – BillJ
    Jun 16, 2018 at 6:30
  • @tautophile couple of vs couple doesn't make a grammatical difference, only a subtle difference in the implied meaning: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/13114/couple-versus-couple-of Jun 16, 2018 at 8:25

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