There to be

I. The word there can be used in subject position followed by a form to the verb to be to say that something does or does not exist in a certain place. The verb agrees in number with the real subject, which comes after the verb. Compare the following sentences:

  1. There is a book on the table.
  2. A book is on the table.

The first sentence focuses more attention on the word book than the second sentence because it makes the reader or hearer wait for the subject a little longer, making him "anticipate" or "look forward to" the real subject. It also sounds more natural since it is the most common way of expressing the idea that a book exists on the table.

Notice that we cannot use the pronoun "it" in this construction:

NOT It is a book on the table.

We can, however, use "it" in another sentence to refer back to the original noun, just as we can use "they" to refer back to a plural noun.

There is a book on the table. It is green.
There are some books on the table. They are green.

II. Notice that the verb changes number to agree with the subject following the verb:

  1. There is a book on the table.
  2. There are some books on the table.


If you use a quantifier after the verb, the number of the verb depends on the noun used after the quantifier.

There is a little orange juice.
There is plenty of orange juice.
There is a great deal of orange juice.

There are a lot of oranges.
There are a number of oranges.
There are plenty of oranges.
There are a few oranges.

You can also use quantifiers as pronouns:

There is plenty.
There are a lot.

If you need to review quantifiers, check out the summary here.

IV. The subject in sentences of this type is almost always an indefinite subject:

There is a book on the table.

NOT There is the book on the table.

V. The noun in this construction is usually followed by one of four structures:

1. by a prepositional phrase

There was a loud knock on the door.
There was a lengthy discussion on the environment.
There were no substantial restrictions on immigration into the US until the passage of the Quota Law of 1921.

When the war began there were 15000 students at Berkeley.
...there were colossal failures at every level.

...there was a slight increase in the amount of background noise....
There was a marked increase in the number of students....
Early that evening there was a lull in the fierce wind....
There was a perceptible shift in attitude.

There was a slight problem with the computer.
...there was a glitch with the last upload that caused all subpages to be inaccessible from the front page.
...there was no correlation with serum creatinine.
...there is a striking correlation with longevity.

2. by a wh-clause

"There is no reason why the same man should like the same books at eighteen and forty-eight."
Ezra Pound

...there is a very good reason why wide board sales are in decline, and used wide boards are the most common trade ins on the market today.

At the east end of the ranching zone there is a place where two major rivers join.

There is a time when one must put aside childish things, and become a man.

"There was a time when we expected nothing of our children but obedience, as opposed to the present, when we expect everything of them but obedience."
Anatole Broyard

"There was a time when a fool and his money were soon parted, but now it happens to everybody."
Adlai E. Stevenson

"There was a time when music told a story; it wasn't just some beat."
Janette Carter

In the year of 1531, just a few days into the month of December, there was a humble man whose name was Juan Diego. They say his home was in Cuauhtitlan.

There was a black-boarded hut from whose chimney smoke exuded....

There was a facilitated meeting to which the all the VDA's were invited....

...there was a formal meeting at which all participants presented reports....

In 1999 there was a company meeting in which Microsoft declared its intent on having an 'update infrastructure' approach to software.

There was a disciplinary meeting to which she had been summoned....

Before the Civil War in the United States there was a system by which escaped slaves were smuggled to the North.

There was a flagstaff from which an enormous Union Jack hung limply in the still air.

Thus there was a valve at the top by means of which the gas could be let out as desired....

According to the Quiche tradition, there were four men from whom the races of the world descended....

There are people from whom light emanates....

There are many artists about whom people say, "Their art is incredible, but their life is a failure."

There are characters about whom one can care and support: Jean Valjean -- one of the noblest figures in all of literature....

3. by one of these adjectives: available, present, or free

Authorities said there was no DNA evidence available because [if] it had ever existed, the weather had destroyed it.

Before 1992, there was no test available for hepatitis C.

Although there were few jobs available during the depression, he was able to work two days a week as well as working in his father's business.

Despite all of my contacts and resources, there were simply no jobs available. the time she got rheumatic arthritis, there weren't many treatment options available.

I was a bit disappointed that there weren't any lawyers present.

There were a lot of prominent people present at the ceremony.

There were obviously many rooms free (the hotel wasn't even half booked)....

...there were no seats free and people were standing....

When we asked to move, they couldn't accommodate us even though there were several other tables free.

4. by a present participle phrase

...there were drain tubes coming out of my lower chest.... (drain tubes were coming out of my lower chest)

During the landing roll, he was informed by the control tower that there were sparks coming from the nose gear. (sparks were coming from the nose gear)

"The pilot realized he was in difficulty and tried to turn around -- there were enormous flames coming out of the engine," he said. (flames were coming out of the engine)

"I got there in about a minute and there were flames shooting out of the basement," he said. (flames were shooting out of the basement)

There were three people there shooting with DVD cameras.... (people were shooting with DVD cameras there)

When she found me there was dark blood oozing from my nose, mouth, ears and eyes. (dark blood was oozing from my nose...)

There was mold creeping up the windows in my bedroom.... (mold was creeping up the windows)

There was bright light shining onto the bridge. (bright light was shining onto the bridge)

There was a dog barking all night long. (a dog was barking all night long)

There was a debate raging at the time about the role of athletics in college life....

There was a fierce storm raging outside the cottage.

...there was a terrible spiritual battle raging in my head....

Assuredly there were sounds emanating from the top of the house.

There were four people working at the bank at the time of the robbery....

Elaine Harte, 67, added: "I was returning to my house from shopping and I noticed there was a man lying on the ground by a car.

There was a pot boiling on a stove and a set of half-washed dishes in the sink....

The snow was melting so there was a little stream running down the rocks.

VI. We can use "there to be" with different tenses:

Simple Present: There is a party at Jake's house tonight.

Simple Past: There was a party at Jake's house last night.

Simple Future: There will be a party at Jake's house next week.

"going to": There is going to be a party at Jake's house next week.

Present Perfect: There have been several parties at Jake's house this month.

Past Perfect: When I arrived at Jake's house, I could see that there had been a party.

Future Perfect: There will have been three parties at Jake's house by the end of the month.

VII. We can also use modal auxiliaries with this structure:

There might be a party at Jake's house tonight.

There might have been a party at Jake's house last night because I heard loud music.

There must be a party at Jake's house because I hear music and people talking and laughing.

There must have been a party at Jake's house last night because there were empty pizza boxes and coke bottles all over the place.

There can't be a party at Jake's house because he is out of town.

There can't have been a party at Jake's house last night because he is out of town.

There should be a lot of people at Jake's party tonight.

There should have been a lot of people at Jake's party last night, but only a few turned up.

VIII. We can use the adverbs "likely," "unlikely," "certain," and "sure" after "there is," etc. to indicate the probability of something happening.

There are sure to be some problems with the new system.
...there were unlikely to be any long-term effects on health....
There is certain to be something that is to your liking.
...there are likely to be serious, long-term consequences....

There to be
Non-finite forms

Infinitive Perfect Infinitive Participial Form
there to be there to have been there being

Simple Tenses
Simple Past Simple Present Simple Future
there was
there were
there is
there are
there will be

Perfect Tenses
Past Perfect Present Perfect Future Perfect
there had been there has been
there have been
there will have been

Simple Tenses
Simple Past Simple Present Simple Future
was there
were there
is there
are there
will there be

Perfect Tenses
Past Perfect Present Perfect Future Perfect
had there been has there been
have there been
will there have been

Simple Tenses
Simple Past Simple Present Simple Future
there wasn't
there weren't
there isn't
there aren't
there won't be

Perfect Tenses
Past Perfect Present Perfect Future Perfect
there hadn't been there hasn't been
there haven't been
there won't have been


There's a good chance you'll lose weight if you eliminate any products containing flour from your diet.

There's no telling what the future may hold.

There isn't much room for error.

There are no shortcuts to success.

There aren't enough words to describe how dreadful the hotel was.

There are sure to be some major surprises.

Hence, there are certain to be instances in which particular opportunities for economic growth should be rejected on sustainable development.

So if there are no cancer cells in the sentinel node, there are unlikely to be any in the other nodes.

There are likely to be locational cost differences that may raise the marginal and average rental cost....

Once upon a time there was a cruel monkey king who ruled in the Himalayas.

I felt someone watching me, but there wasn't anyone there.

He said that there were no traces upon the ground round the body.

There weren't many surprises among Tuesday's Academy Award nominations.

According to Wilenius, in the future there will be fewer and fewer people involved in actually manufacturing a certain product.

He was incredibly talented; there won't be another like him in our lifetime.


"There has been a bad business during the night at 3, Lauriston Gardens, off the Brixton Road. Our man on the beat saw a light there about two in the morning, and as the house was an empty one, suspected that something was amiss. He found the door open, and in the front room, which is bare of furniture, discovered the body of a gentleman, well dressed, and having cards in his pocket bearing the name of 'Enoch J. Drebber, Cleveland, Ohio, U. S. A.' There had been no robbery, nor is there any evidence as to how the man met his death. There are marks of blood in the room, but there is no wound upon his person. We are at a loss as to how he came into the empty house; indeed, the whole affair is a puzzler. If you can come round to the house any time before twelve, you will find me there. I have left everything in statu quo until I hear from you. If you are unable to come, I shall give you fuller details, and would esteem it a great kindness if you would favour me with your opinions.

"Yours faithfully,


There has been much speculation over the past 150 years about the origins of civilisation.

...there hasn't ever been a study that's actually quantified ...what the hormones are that change in a whole range of health issues for women.

If past lives really do exist, why hasn't there ever been any verifiable evidence discovered during a past-life regression?

There will have been medical breakthroughs in Alzheimer's disease [by 2029].

"We are concerned that there won't have been a sufficiently thorough risk assessment before the drug is purchased," said Dr. John Chisholm, chairman of the British Medical Association's general practitioner committee.

Without the Moon, there would have been no necessity for breaking the calendar year into 12 months.

Without Eve, there would have been no Adam.

Had it not been for this initial imbalance, there would have been no galaxies, no stars, no planets, nor even the simplest of chemical elements.

They argue that if such a fracture had been suffered in life, there would have been evidence for hemorrhage or hematoma present in the CT scan.

Unless you were wealthy and had servants, there would have been far less spare time because there were more chores to do and all would have had to be done during daylight hours.

Even if there had been a tunnel at that location, there would have been no need to construct an arch....

Without a Don Barksdale, there wouldn't have been a Michael Jordan....

According to them, if more care had been taken, a number of patents wouldn't have been granted and there wouldn't have been such controversy in the market....

Would there have been an American Revolution without newspapers and mail?

Why would there have been a need to protect workers from the health effects of hazardous materials if there were no health threat as stated earlier?

"There should be no strife with the vanquished or the dead."

"There should be a special circle in hell for people who mess with scientific data."
Chris C Mooney

Should there be a ban on cell phone use while driving?

There should have been an investigation into the conduct of the officers.

Also, if you believe Sam's story, there was blood where there shouldn't have been.

Should there have been more Congressional oversight?

When the package was shipped shouldn't there have been a copy of the original insurance tag with it?

Why shouldn't there have been a continuance instead of mistrial?

There could be trouble ahead for broadcast radio, unless it learns a thing or two from podcasting.

There couldn't be anything more important in families with teenagers than keeping the lines of communication open.

Could there be life in the galaxies nearest to the Milky Way?

There could have been a monster the size of a car up there and he wouldn't have been able to spot it.

"Early in the history of Mars and Earth, there could have been an exchange of biological material between the two planets," agrees Benton Clark, a Mars exploration specialist at Lockheed Martin in Colorado.

"There might have been liquid water on Mars in the past and there could have been life then, but it's pretty unlikely that we'll find life living there today," Phillips said.

There couldn't have been 5000 fans in the stands. There might not be many more for the doubleheader.

"Unfortunately," the longtime auto safety advocate said, "there couldn't have been many more than three people who bought them."

In his acceptance speech, Ken said he didn't know why he'd been singled out to receive the award, but to me there couldn't have been a better choice.

"But couldn't there have been an advanced earth race?" I inquired

'Current theories suggest that Venus and the Earth may have started out alike. There might have been a lot of water on Venus and there might have been a lot of carbon dioxide on Earth,' Professor Ingersoll explained.

According to climate researcher James Kasting, when the earth first formed there might not have been any oxygen around.

If the universe is currently growing, then the universe was smaller in the past. There must have been some point in time when the universe was half its current size.

One of the most amazing things you will discover when researching this topic is how likely people were to let doctors fool around with their brains in the 1950s and 60s. There must not have been enough lawyers back then.

"I want there to be no peasant in my kingdom so poor that he cannot have a chicken in his pot every Sunday."
Henry IV

I wouldn't want there to be an accident.

Wouldn't you want there to be enough blood for you, or your family, if you were to have an accident that sent you to the hospital?

We talk about there being (about the fact that there is) a shortage of doctors, but in reality there is poor distribution instead. (verbs after prepositions are always in the ing-form)

There being no further objection (As/Because/Since there was no further objection), Amendment No. 1 to New Amendment No. 3 was adopted.

The discoveries in the East China Sea ...have shown there to be (have shown that there are) a large number of anomalous megalithic structures not too deep underwater.... Maps of coastlines during the Ice Age show there to have been (show that there were) many thousands of square miles of coastal plains above sea-level between what is now mainland China, and Okinawa....

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This page was last modified on 07/15/11