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Are Vs Is: Which One Should You Use And When?

by subhasree nag
Last Updated on: October 12, 2023

I have mentioned numerous times before that grammar can be a tricky subject. However, with a few tips and tricks, it can be made easy. And sometimes, the most basic things become complex for us, we make mistakes placing those correctly. One such thing is getting the hang of using ‘is’ and ‘are.’

Although is and basically hold the same meaning, they are used in separate contexts. This is what we are going to discuss today. It is going to be about “are vs is”. The difference between the words, the contexts where they are used, along with some examples for making things clear.

Are Vs Is: The Basics  

Are vs is_ The basics

Are and is are verbs, to be precise. Linking verbs are mainly conjugated forms of “to be.” The striking difference is that we use ‘is’ when we are referring to something singular, and we use ‘are’ when we are referring to something plural. For example:

  • Ben is going to the movie.
  • Ben and Jess are going to the movie.

The first example shows Ben going to the movies alone. Ben is a singular noun, and thus, using “is” in that sentence as the verb would be the appropriate one there.

Whereas in the next example, we can see that Ben is not alone and is going to the movie with Jess. Here, there are two nouns, which means we have to conjugate the verb “to be” to make it plural. These are the places where we use the verb “are.”

Seems simple, doesn’t it? However, there are a few more additional rules that we have to understand for using the verb forms appropriately in different situations.

Singular Indefinite Pronouns  

A singular indefinite pronoun does not refer to something specific or some person in particular. A few examples of singular indefinite pronouns are:

  • One
  • Everyone, no one, anyone, someone
  • Nobody, somebody, anybody, everybody
  • Another, the other
  • Neither, either
  • Less, little
  • Each
  • Much

When we are using these words, we have to use the verb ‘is.” Some might seem plural, like everyone, but the verb “is” should always be used with these pronouns. Let’s see a few examples.

  • Is everybody coming tomorrow?
  • Someone is already in the dressing room and is taking a lot of time.
  • Each one of these is precious.
  • No one is coming tomorrow, they have collectively taken the decision.
  • Somebody is giving out the posters in the street.

On the other hand, plural indefinite nouns are the ones that describe an unknown number. This is why, in these cases, we have to use “are” as the verb to support the sentence. Some of the common plural indefinite nouns are:

  • Many
  • All
  • Few
  • Some

Here Are A Few Examples To Understand Things Better.  

  • All of the people from the guest list are coming to the party tomorrow.
  • Some days are better than others.
  • Many of the doctors here are my students.
  • A few of my friends are coming over for a slumber party.
  • All my friends are leaving for Mauritius tomorrow, and I have to stay back for the exam.

Are Vs Is – Collective Noun  

A collective noun is something that describes a group of people or a few things collectively. Collective nouns are those which treat things together as an entity in a sentence. For example:

  • Couple
  • Group
  • Audience
  • Committee

A collective noun represents a lot or multiple number of people together. So, should “are” be used as the verb here? No. Here is the catch. This is because even though it represents a group or number of people together, a collective noun is itself singular. And the verb “is’ should always be used with it.

  • They announced a special performance at the last moment, and now the audience is still waiting.
  • There is the couple I was talking about at the party who caught the attention of all the guests.
  • That group of people over there is making all the noise in the auditorium.
  • The committee is in the conference room right now, making a decision about the matter.
  • That group is still deciding whether they want to cross the river.

Are Vs Is – What To Use With A Compound Subject?  

When we connect two subjects by an “and,” it is known as a compound subject. The example, “Ben and Jess are going to the movie,” has a compound subject, where Ben and Jess are two singular nouns joined with “and.” When we are joining both the singular subjects with an and, it becomes plural. And that is why the verb “are” is used.

Are or is - What to use with a compound subject

Few Examples To Support The Statement  

  • Saturday and Sunday are my off days.
  • Editing and writing are two completely different things and require different skill sets.
  • Jill and Joe are going to the pool party tomorrow.
  • Jen and Emily are going to the opera next week. They got their tickets last month.
  • New Year’s and Thanksgiving are my son’s favorite holidays.

“There Is” VS “There Are”  

There has been a common confusion about “there are’ and “there is.” To determine which verb to use, look closely at what is coming after it. Look into the noun and, determine whether it is plural or singular, and use the verb accordingly.

  • There is a bird sitting outside the window.

Here, bird is a singular noun, so “is” is the correct verb to use.

  • There are birds sitting outside the window.

Here, “birds” is a plural subject, and “are” is the correct form of the verb that you should use.

Wrapping Up!  

It is not as simple as it sounds. Getting a clear concept about “are vs is” could be a difficult task. In addition to that, it might confuse people since there are a lot of terms and conditions attached to these. But to keep things simple, all you have to remember is to use “is” when the noun is singular and use “are” when the noun is plural.

As I mentioned, it is not that simple, so to avoid any confusion, read the article once again. And along with the examples as well to clear your concept.


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