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Dummy subject there


There used as a dummy subject

In English, the word there can be used as a pronoun, functioning as a dummy subject.

Examples:

  • There is hope.
  • There are some students.
  • There occurred a terrible accident.
  • There exist two major factors.

As in the examples above, there can be used with the verb to be in existential clauses, clauses that refer to the existence or presence of something. It can also be used with verbs like exist or occur.

It is noteworthy that the logical subject of the verbs mentioned above appears as a complement.

  • Hope is there.
  • Some students are there.
  • A terrible accident occurred there.
  • Two major factors exist there.

Agreement

The dummy subject agrees in number with the logical subject:

  • It takes a plural verb if the complement (the logical subject) is plural.
  • It takes a singular verb if the complement (the logical subject) is singular.

In colloquial English, however, the contracted form there's is used for singular and plural complements.

  • There's two of them
  • There's one of them.

Questions with there

When making questions, the dummy subject is inverted:

  • There is a nice restaurant.
  • Is there a nice restaurant?

Deictic or pronoun?

The word there can be a deictic adverb, referring to a place. For this reason, some uses of there can be ambiguous.

Examples:

  • There is a restaurant.

This sentence may have two meanings:

  1. There is a restaurant.
    A restaurant exists. (There is used here as pronoun)
  2. There is a restaurant.
    A restaurant is in that place. (There is deictic referring to a place - it is adverbial)

In speech, the deictic there is given stress. However, when there is used as a pronoun, it is not stressed.

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Parts of speech
Subject
Verb
Predicate
Direct and indirect objects
Sentence
Exercise: there is, there are