While writing recently, I came across a situation where a character said:

There's a lot of chandeliers in here.

When editing, I realized that I wanted to have the sentence sound more formal, and chose to remove the contraction to do so, which is when I realized that it would become:

There are a lot of chandeliers here.

This puzzled me, and puzzles me still. There's is presumably a contraction of "there" and "is", which is, of course, grammatically incorrect when describing a plural. But why is this okay in the contraction?

  • To be honest, I don't think it is an exact duplicate, but it's very closely related and the provided answers may explain why. Also, generally speaking our membership expects a cursory research effort before handling questions. If I am mistaken, would you explain why the other question is insufficient? It'd help fulfill those expectations. – Tonepoet Feb 13 '19 at 20:59
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    @Tonepoet The other question asks "Is this correct?". My question is "This is not correct, but why does it feel correct?". The other question's answers get bogged down in details about which nouns are countable and about the specific semantics of using "there're", which is unrelated to my question. – Blue Caboose Feb 13 '19 at 22:22
  • I use there's in order to avoid trying to get my tongue round there're. – Nigel J Feb 14 '19 at 0:33
  • It depends on how picky you are. For some people, "there's" for plural sounds okay but for some people it doesn't. – aparente001 Feb 16 '19 at 22:48

Over time, there's has become applicable to both singular and plural nouns. The Cambridge Dictionary explains that this shift has primarily occurred in spoken or informal contexts. If the character were more colloquial or if they did not tend to speak in an especially refined way, they may say that. They risk being called "incorrect" by prescriptivists but in my experience it's never been remarked upon as a spoken error.

However, the use of the contraction does not generalize to

*There is a lot of chandeliers in here.

since the expanded version has not come into use in the same way in standard forms of English.

Why not use there're? I've used it quite a bit in my life, but sources (including a question on that point in this Stack Exchange) point to it being a dialect feature that is less common in standard contexts.

In short, you have three options:

There's a lot of chandeliers in here (informal, more likely spoken)

There are a lot of chandeliers in here (formal, spoken or written)

There're a lot of chandeliers in here (dialect-specific or less common in writing)

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    That's sort of what I suspected, that it's partially a dialect thing, and that "there're" is tricky to say out loud. – Blue Caboose Feb 13 '19 at 22:15
  • "There's" sounds horrible to me. "There're" doesn't. I don't feel like I'm being prescriptivist as in the answer, but maybe I am. – Karlomanio Feb 15 '19 at 19:17

There's is not grammatically correct in the sentence you gave.

There's a lot of chandeliers in here

The correct form should be the contraction of "there" and "are"- There're as given below.

There're a lot of chandeliers here.

Many native speakers use this contraction incorrectly, so your suspicions are correct.

Good catch!

  • It's becoming more acceptable, especially in speech. "It's us" breaks a couple of rules, but is still acceptable ... grammatical, most would say. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 25 '19 at 16:54

It is always a matter of judgement as to when a "mistake" in language becomes through frequent use something that is "correct" after all. I would say that "There's" applied to a plural is in that zone of transition (even before you get bogged down in which nouns are countable etc.)

Mathematicians have for many years used the symbol of a capital letter E reversed to mean "There exists(s)" without worrying whether whatever it is that exists is singular or plural. I think that there is a lot to be said for that approach, and it lends support to the use of "There's" in the same way.

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