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There were grapes and coffee on the table. There were coffee and grapes on the table. There was grapes and coffee on the table. There was coffee and grapes on the table. The ones in bold sound correct to me. Couldn't find grammar rule. Please help.

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  • Does switching those sound wrong to you?
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 2:45
  • Despite what they told you in school, There is works just fine here; number agreement is only necessary for forms of be,, and more often than not there is is pronounced there's anyway. There's sposta be a contraction there're, but nobody uses it because it's too hard to pronounce and sounds like there, so there's is actually better. Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 13:50
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    Does this answer your question? Mixing plural and singular list items with a single verb The example given in the duplicate mixes count and non-count usages in a coordination: 'There is no hardware to purchase, no additional software to install and no key fobs to worry about.' Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 13:51

1 Answer 1

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This seems to be one of the grammatical things where there is wide Disagreement.

View Point 1:

Here, the verb ( "was" or "were" ) does not depend on the immediately succeeding word, but on the whole subject.

When Subject is Plural, use "were".
When Subject is Singular, use "was". This includes special cases where a group of items is considered as one single item.

These are correct, in general :

There were Singular & Singular.
There were Singular & Plural.
There were Plural & Singular.
There were Plural & Plural.

This is correct, in general :

There was Singular.

This is correct, in some special cases :

There was "Singular/Plural & Singular/Plural" eg "Gin & Tonic".

Reference:

https://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/subjectVerbAgree.asp
Rule 4

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-agreement-grammar-1689075
Agreement

View Point 2:

Here, the verb ( "was" or "were" ) depends entirely only on the immediately succeeding word, not on the whole subject.

When Succeeding Subject is Plural, use "were".
When Succeeding Subject is Singular, use "was".

These are correct, in general :

There was Singular and Plural.
There were Plural and Singular.

Reference:

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/there-is-there-are/
Grammerly

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/there-is-there-s-and-there-are
Cambridge

Discussion:

Some of the references mention that "there is Plural" is informal (or even incorrect) and should be avoided in formal cases.
Some of the references mention that "there is Plural" is better (or even correct) in all cases, formal or informal.
Both cite "Authorities" and hence I see that there is wide Disagreement over this grammar Issue.
I will leave it to the "Experts" to think over this.

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    Hello, Prem. Please note the supporting references given in answers to the previous question. Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 13:55
  • Thanks @EdwinAshworth , I am updating/revising my answer ....
    – Prem
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 14:41
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    Amazing answer! Thanks!
    – Gary Moore
    Commented Jun 2, 2022 at 11:57

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