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This article says that it is ungrammatical but I cannot access it. It states that you must use "There is a man over there" instead.

https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521264747.005

But it is grammatical to say "Someone is over there". Both noun phrases are indefinite, so I don't understand why my first example is wrong.

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    Why do you think someone is over there is grammatical? I wouldn't use it for the same reason I wouldn't say a man is over there — the subject is indefinite. (I wouldn't call them ungrammatical, but unidiomatic, but I clearly have a stricter definition of ungrammatical than the article.) Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 12:22
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    It actually says that 'the pattern is not part of the structure of the language' - that is, it's not how native speakers naturally say it - rather than strictly ungrammatical. When introducing a person or thing that hasn't previously been mentioned, we say "There is a..." Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 12:40
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    Head exploding after reading your link. Complicated way to explain the complicated subject of what is idiomatic. And I can find cases to fit "A man is over there" smoothly: Here's the Manet. A dog sits here. A man is over there. And my grandmother's a trolley car. Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 12:40
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    Pro tip: Don't believe everything you read, especially not about English grammar. Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 13:45
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    One would expect a scholarly work to explain how the authors are using the term 'grammatical'. Svartvik and Greenwald published research showing that the term is ill-defined unless a stipulative definition is selected (practised linguists couldn't agree on the acceptability of some sentences). Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 16:57

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The article you cite is one talking about determining acceptable grammar from historical works, and the difficulty of doing that. Specifically the example is saying that we know "a man is over there" is ungrammatical only because we don't see it being used.

It's true that the indefinite article is virtually never used with the subject of "to be", and "There is..." is preferred. You can formulate a grammatical rule to state that, and people do when trying to describe or teach English.

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    the example is saying that we know "a man is over there" is ungrammatical only because we don't see it being used. The author has chosen a very poor example, otherwise this would mean that any sentence we don't see used is ungrammatical, yet "King Xerxes' tortoise has climbed the citadel" seems faultless. :)
    – Greybeard
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 17:50
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    @Greybeard The article is talking about patterns not sentences. I summarized, and I expected people would realize this. Also they are talking about historical situations. Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 18:22
  • Long story but it is a question of tense"... historical works [no definition], and the difficulty of doing that. Specifically the example is saying that we know "a man is over there" was ungrammatical [in historical works]." Even this is wrong. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is possible that there is a lot of context that might justify the claim but, as it stands, it is shoddy.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 21:00
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    The point of the book extract (published by CUP) is that when you are dealing with historical grammar, usage is pretty much all you have to work with. The have to use absence of usage as evidence of incorrectness. But I didn't write it, so feel free to disagree. Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 21:31

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