In most declarative English sentences, the subject precedes the verb. But when a sentence starts with either here or there, the order is often reversed, and we are tempted to use a singular verb when we need a plural one.

Can you spot the agreement error in each of these sentences?

  1. Here’s three good reasons to buy your office supplies from us.
  2. There’s many causes of school violence.
  3. Here is the sales report, the market analysis, and the strategic plan.
  4. There is Harry, Sue, and Michael.
  5. Here’s a few boxes of old photographs from the attic.
  6. There’s not even a dozen protesters at the rally today.

Each of these sentences incorrectly pairs the singular verb is with a plural subject.

Why Here and There Are Tricky

Why do these inverted constructions—when subjects appear after their verbs—cause trouble?

Since here and there can never be subjects regardless of their position in a sentence, when we use them to launch a clause, we must look ahead to determine if the subject is singular or plural. Only then can we choose the appropriate verb.

Preoccupied with composing a message, a writer may overlook the plural subject and default to a singular verb.

Here are the same sentences with the correct (plural) verbs:

  1. Here ARE three good reasons to buy your office supplies from us.
  2. There ARE many causes of school violence. [Note that the original sentence used the contraction “there’s,” short for “there is,” but the contracted form of “there are” is the awkward “there’re.”]
  3. Here ARE the sales report, the market analysis, and the strategic plan.
  4. There ARE Harry, Sue, and Michael.
  5. Here ARE a few boxes of old photographs from the attic.
  6. There ARE not [or There AREN’T] even a dozen protesters at the rally today.

Our Ears and Eyes Get Us in Trouble

Sentences 1 and 2 are fairly straightforward. Even before reading through to the plural nouns “reasons” and “causes,” we should know that plural verbs are necessary since the adjectives “three” and “many” invariably denote plurality.

Sentences 3 and 4 prove more challenging because in each case a singular noun (“the sales report” and “Harry”) immediately follows the plural verb, and such juxtaposition troubles our ears—until we continue reading and discover that those singular nouns form only one part of what are, in fact, plural subjects.

In sentence 3 the complete subject consists of “the sales report” AND “the market analysis” AND “the strategic plan”; in sentence 4 it comprises “Harry” AND “Sue” AND “Michael.”

Such discordant sentences could, of course, be rewritten. If we want to keep our ears happy AND be grammatically correct, we might rework them this way:

  1. The sales report, the market analysis, and the strategic plan are in this folder.
  2. Harry, Sue, and Michael are walking in the door.

Finally, sentences 5 and 6 can also give us pause. With the noun phrases “a few boxes” and “a dozen protesters,” we may be initially fooled by the article a that launches these expressions, and we may anticipate singular subjects. The only way to avoid agreement errors with these phrases is, once again, to look ahead and accurately identify the subjects before deciding on the appropriate verb. In these two examples, the subjects are the plural nouns boxes and protesters, respectively.

A Word of Caution

Relying solely on word-processing grammar checkers to flag agreement errors (and other language issues, for that matter) is risky. Such programs may lack the sophistication to distinguish between a discrete single-noun subject and a singular noun that is merely part of a plural subject, especially when the subject appears after (rather than before) the verb. (On the bright side, this potential software shortcoming points to the continued need for human oversight in writing-related endeavors. AI has not rendered us wordsmiths redundant—yet.)

All careful writers should, therefore, spend an extra moment scrutinizing the entire clause before deciding whether to employ a singular or plural verb after an introductory here or there. (Incidentally, sentences beginning with “where is” warrant similar scrutiny. “Where’s the beef?” is grammatically correct; “Where’s my keys?” is not.)

There’s a Related Issue 

In general, writers tend to start too many sentences with the word there. Most of those sentences could be more succinct. Consider these examples:

  • Original: There is a squirrel making noise in our attic.
  • Revision: A squirrel is making noise in our attic.
  • Original: There are ten people serving on the zoning committee.
  • Revision: Ten people serve on the zoning committee.
  • Original: There is a tendency for people to lie about their age.
  • Revision: People tend to lie about their age.

Test Yourself

Is the number of the verb correct in the following sentences?

  1. Here’s the list of addresses you asked me to compile.
  2. There is a casserole, a fruit salad, and a lemon pie in the refrigerator.
  3. Here’s the top ten reasons for subscribing to the Get It Write blog on English grammar, mechanics, and usage.
  4. There’s not enough hours in the day for me to complete my work.
  5. Here’s some paint samples for you to take home.
  6. There’s no doughnuts in the break room this morning, and there’s only a couple of drops of coffee left (so we might as well go home!).


  1. HERE’S [or Here IS] . . . [The singular noun list is the subject.]
  2. There ARE . . . [Three items constitute a plural subject. To be more succinct, we might instead write, “A casserole, a fruit salad, and a lemon pie are in the refrigerator.”]
  3. Here ARE the top ten reasons . . . [The plural noun reasons is the subject.]
  4. There ARE not [or There AREN’T] enough hours . . . [The plural noun hours is the subject.]
  5. Here ARE some paint samples . . . [The plural noun samples is the subject.]
  6. There ARE no doughnuts . . . and there ARE only a couple of drops . . . [Both doughnuts and drops are plural subjects.]

Elsewhere on this site we discuss the opposite problem: the use of plural verbs with singular subjects. This can occur, for instance, when either or neither is the subject of a clause. And who, which, and that can present equally tricky situations because these pronouns are sometimes singular and sometimes plural, depending on their antecedent(s). Check out those links, too!

Copyright Get It Write 2001. Revised 2024.

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