English "There is" and "There are"


"There is" and "there are" are two very common constructions in English that are important to know. This module looks at how and when to use these two expression.

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If we want to signify that something exists, existed, or has existed in some form or quantity, we use the phrase “There + be/have”, depending on in what tense we are speaking.

There is/are (present)
There is some coffee in the lunch room. (Coffee was made and is currently in the lunchroom).
There is a chance of rain this afternoon. (The chance of rain exists this afternoon)
There are donuts in the lunch room. (Donuts are in the lunchroom for everyone)
There are several different options. (Different options exist)

There was/were (simple past)
There was lightning earlier.
There was a car accident on the highway.
There were several delays at the airport.
There were many people in the audience.

There has/have been (present perfect)
There has been an accident.
There has been one case of the flu.
There have been many presidents, but never one this young.
There have been three hurricanes this summer.

There will be/going to be (future)
There will be several thunderstorms this evening.
There are going to be consequences to your actions.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.