Do you remember ever being taught not to start a sentence with “There is . . .”? You may have been, because it just isn’t a very good way to begin a sentence. It is called an expletive construction.
Why isn’t “There is” or “There are” (or even “It is . . .”) a good way to begin a sentence?
- Sometimes difficult to know whether to use a singular or plural verb
- There is no need to read the entire article. Weak
- You do not need to read the entire article. Stronger
- There are many people who love the color blue. Wordy
- Many people love the color blue. Concise
Confusing. Singular or Plural?
- There are a bunch of bananas on the table?
- There is a bunch of bananas on the tab?
The subject is bunch, not bananas, so it is singular:
- A bunch of bananas is on the table
- There is a bunch of bananas on the table.
Generally, we think of the subject as being the first word in a sentence, and it often is. Subjects are either nouns or pronouns:
- Jake took the rest of the cake home. (noun subject)
- He took the rest of the cake home. (pronoun subject)
But we often (correctly) put something before the noun or pronoun: a word, a phrase, sometimes an entire clause:
- Finally, Jake took the rest of the cake home. (a word)
- After the party, Jake took the rest of the cake home. (phrase)
- Because I didn’t want to eat it, Jake took the rest of the cake home. (clause)
All of the above sentences are fine. The subject doesn’t have to come first in a sentence. But “there” is a weird way to begin a sentence. It is not a noun, it is not a pronoun, and it is not a connecting word. While it may look like it is the subject, it isn’t. The subject would be somewhere after the verb in this type of construction.
- There is a house in New Orleans . . .
- A house is there in New Orleans. House is the subject.
- There is a fly in the ointment.
- A fly is there in the ointment. Fly is the subject.
- There’s a bad moon on the rise.
- A bad moon is on the rise. Moon is the subject.
- There is a sucker born every day.
- A sucker is born every day there. Sucker is the subject.
It is truly best not to begin a sentence with There is. Usually. Here are some more examples:
- There is a pot of coffee already made. (weak)/A pot of coffee is ready and waiting for you.(better)
- There isn’t a cloud in the sky. (weak)/ The sky is cloudless. (better)
- There is a spider on the wall. (weak)/ A spider is crawling up the wall. (better)
- There is a meeting you need to attend. (weak)/ You need to attend the meeting. (better)
- There is no telling what he will do next. (weak)/ What he will do next is a mystery! (better)
- There is a pencil and a pad of paper on the table. (Weak and grammatically incorrect)/A pencil and a pad of paper are on the table.
And isn’t “The sun is shining” stronger than “It is a nice day”?
Isn’t “It has been brought to my attention that you are stealing,” too wordy when you can just say,” I heard you are stealing”?
If you were told to avoid writing sentences that start with “There is . . .” or “Here is . . .” or “It is . . .” you got good advice! Of course, when we talk we often say what comes into our minds first. We say it, and it is gone. Writing is a bit different. You can plan it, and you can change it later. And you can avoid beginning your sentences with “There is . . .”