Date: Sun, 27 Feb 1994 15:20:32 EST


Subject: Re: there's

I've been intrigued recently by the use of singular (?) there's in

plural contexts, i.e. "There's the books I've been looking for," or

"There's two ways to solve that problem," in unmonitored speech. Has

anyone noticed it, or better yet, studied and written on it? I'd be

interested in learning.

Terese Thonus

Indiana University

I am currently doing a descriptive study of special cases of agreement

marking using a forced choice test. The results suggest that

agreement is inherently variable in english, which makes it

either a defective node (similar to that deletion in relative

clauses) or a style rule. Am presenting paper on topic this week.

To the point of your query, I used to There _____ items in

my test (which actually originates from Don Lance a few years


a. There _____ two boys and a girl in the room.

b. There _____ a girl and two boys looking for you.

Responses to a. are categorially plural. With b., however,

61% of informants select the singular There's/There is form.

One is tempted to conclude that there really is no such

thing as s-v # agreement in core grammar of english. There

are (!) no number realizations for past tense nor for future

time expressions using will. The only remnant is -s on

third person present singular and some idiosyncratic

auxiliaries. No such marking shows up on modal forms, what

remains of subjunctive mood, or in complement constructions

such as I saw him leave, etc.

I am interested in hearing about any quantitative

descriptive studies myself.

Terry Irons