Is vs. Are: When to Use Are vs. Is (with Useful Examples)

Is vs. are! Some grammar rules are learnt in elementary schools, and yet they still cause a lot of confusion for many English speakers. This might happen because certain words are misused in popular songs, movies, and TV-shows, and everyone who listens to this music or watches these films cannot help getting confused occasionally. This is something that can happen in a text message without anyone noticing but in formal writing, it is unacceptable. For example, there is no way that is vs. are can be confused in an essay, a research paper, or a formal email. Read on to know how to avoid making such a mistake.

Is vs. Are

IS is the form of a verb to be that is used for singular nouns, while ARE is the form used for plural nouns.

So far, everything is pretty obvious. When you have a singular noun, you need to use is, e.g. The girl is intelligent, the cat is running in the yard. When you have a plural noun or more than one singular noun, use are, e.g. Her sons are at school, the boy and the dog are playing.

But what happens with collective nouns? Collective nouns are those that, even though describing a group of people, are still singular. An example is the noun team: a team consists of many players, and yet this is a singular noun. Because it’s singular, you still need to use is with it. Other examples would be sentences like “A couple is buying a new fridge” and “The committee is having a meeting right now“.

Sometimes, however, you can see an are after a collective noun. This can happen in American English if the writer wants to emphasize that this collective noun refers to more than one person. For instance, you might come across a sentence, “The couple aren’t being honest with each other“.

The English language also has mass, or uncountable nouns. These, as their name suggests, can’t be counted. For example, you can’t say that you have “two waters” or “two moneys”: these are two examples of mass nouns. They are followed by is in both British and American English, So, you would say, “Water is necessary for people to live” and “Money is the root of all evil”.

Now, what about phrases, such as a number of, a pair of, a group of?

Here, it might not be as obvious or as easy as it seems. With a number of, even though “number” is singular, it’s best to use are, e.g. “A number of students are reading this book now“. Other phrases, such as a group of, can take both is and are, depending on what you want to emphasize on. If your emphasis is on the group, then you should choose is, e.g. “This group of teachers is inspirational“. But when your emphasis is on individuals, you should go for are, e.g. “A bunch of teachers are changing their workplace this year“. Finally, with a pair of, it’s best to use is, e.g. “This pair of shoes is the last one“.

There Is vs There Are

One final thing that can cause confusion is the difference between there is and there are. To be safe and correct, look at what goes after this phrase and choose the verb according to the rules discussed previously. For example, a cat is singular, so the correct sentence to write would be, “There is a cat on the roof“. On the other hand, books are plural, so you would write, “There are many books on the shelf“. The rules of collective and uncountable nouns, as well as of collective phrases, also stay the same.

Is vs. Are Examples

  • The fox is known by his brush.
  • A good healthy body is worth more a crown in gold.
  • I will look after her child when she is on a business trip.
  • He is not really suited for a teaching career.
  • There is a connection between pollution and the death of trees.
  • You are never too old to learn.
  • They are preparing for the presentation of a new musical.
  • His children are very precious to him.
  • We are growing impatient with the lack of results.
  • There are two sides to every question.

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Is vs. Are: How to Use Is vs. Are Correctly?

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Toby
Toby
1 year ago

There sure is wonderful people. Or, there sure are wonderful people?

Heather
Heather
1 year ago
Reply to  Toby

There sure are wonderful people. People is plural so it makes it “are”.

Jon
Jon
9 months ago
Reply to  Toby

People is a collective term, so I would say…is?

Alan Madlane
Alan Madlane
8 months ago
Reply to  Jon

No, because this falls under the example where it could go either way, but you have to decide whether the emphasis is on the group as a whole, or as individuals. In this case, given the many aspects that can go into making up a wonderful person, we would generally assume that the group of persons, aka “people,” is being considered more as individuals. In this particular instance, this is seconded by the fact that “There sure is wonderful people” sounds really bad.

Hrvoje
Hrvoje
1 year ago

I came here because I noticed that speaker on the match Bulgaria vs Germany USA World cup ’94, when Bulgaria hit the lead 2:1 said “Bulgaria are in front”. So ,I thought he should said “is in front” because Bulgaria football team is a collective noun. I guess when someone emphasize something “are” is in use.

Kind regards

Alan Madlane
Alan Madlane
8 months ago
Reply to  Hrvoje

“Is” here, because the team is being considered as one functioning unit at that moment, I would say.

Jackie du Toit
Jackie du Toit
1 year ago

Please help. When using a company name like TIA Adventure Safaris, will I use ‘is’ or ‘are’?

Heather
Heather
1 year ago

“The couple isn’t being honest.” Just the same as “A couple is buying a new fridge”. There is one couple, the word “the” is usually indicative of that. Yes, there are two people, but it is one couple. “The couples aren’t being honest” would work, or just saying “They aren’t being honest … ” That’s a poor example.

Felicity
Felicity
1 year ago

Can I say ‘music and dancing is my game’ or should I rather say ‘music and dancing ARE my game’

Jon
Jon
9 months ago
Reply to  Felicity

Music and dancing describes the “singular noun” game, thus, I would use is.

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