Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There's going to be trouble if there are any more peeps from the audience

It's as common as people ordering a Big Mac, super-size fries and a diet coke. What's that, you ask? People who use the word "there's." For me, it looms high on the "oh no you didn't" scale of grammar "badness."

I had an English professor in college who just couldn't grasp the concept that when you're referring to more than one person, place or thing (for example, hundreds of revelers or fifteen minutes) and preceding it with the word "there," "there" must be followed with "are." Not is or 's or, worse, be.

Incorrect: I'm not going to wait in line for the newest Star Trek movie - there's like ten thousands nerds in Mr. Spock costumes all over the place. And they're doing something really weird with their hands.

Correct: I'm glad you're taking time to trim your toenails, but next time, please do it outside of your cubicle and dispose of the clippings elsewhere. There are four coworkers complaining to me about this practice of yours.

If you're uncertain about whether it's OK to use the contraction there's, try filling in there is where you are considering using there's.

You wouldn't say (not if you wanted to be correct) there is fifty states, so you shouldn't use there's fifty states. But you would say there is a party tonight, so it's also fine to say there's a rockin' party tonight, and I am not missing it.

That about covers it.

I think it's time I sign off. There's something else I need to be doing. In fact, there are ten (ten thousand?) things I should be doing that don't involve telling you how to speak or write.

Until next time, and with all of my love, I wish you an excellent day.