Let’s talk about expletives again. No, I still don’t mean that kind of expletive!
Do you remember expletives from a couple of Super Grammars ago? I explained that in grammar an expletive serves a merely structural role as a noun element and relies on the predicate to supply the true subject of your sentence. (So, for example, in the sentence “There is a ship stuck in the Suez Canal”, the expletive is “there is”. And the true subject is “ship”.)
I now offer a word of caution when using two of the most common expletive clauses, here is/are and there is/are. The verb that follows here or there must agree in number with the true subject of the sentence and in tense with any other verbs in the sentence.
Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate this.
The true subject, “two chairs and a table”, is plural so the verb must be either “are” or “were”. Because the other verb “have” is in present tense, the correct choice is “there are”.
The true subject is “police officers”, so the verb must be plural. The other verbs in the sentence, “used” and “had”, are past tense so “there were” must agree in tense.
The true subject is “tips”, so the correct expletive clause would be “here are”.
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