technically correct subject-verb agreement

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Thu Dec 30 20:14:40 UTC 2004


Rest easy; I am at least one more very local agreement person who
hates the "There were liquor and ...." but can tolerate "There were
drinks and..." (when I am out of my fixed form dialect, which is my
vernacular and perhaps the only trustworthy one for me to report on
(if such personal reports are worth anything outside folk


PS: Just to be mean, like all prescriptivists, really are, let's test
one of these with "There was/were kudos,..."

>On Dec 29, 2004, at 8:44 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>>This sentence sounds fine to me.
>>Only the singular is possible for me here.  It wouldn't be perfect,
>>but a lot more natural than the plural.
>>>>Going to his house was what I lived for. There were liquor, music,
>>>>a strong desire for my body.
>just to remind people: this isn't a vote on what the "real" grammar of
>english is, or should be.  i expect variation here.  of those who have
>agreeing, rather than fixed, verb forms in existentials, i'd  expect
>some people to treat the coordinate phrase as just like simplex plurals
>(There were/*was many people there); this is what patty davies reports.
>  but for this coordinate example, i find only the singular fully
>acceptable, and i'm pleased to hear that at least one other person
>what's going on for me is a small island of grammaticalized agreement
>with the nearest .  (i have no idea what the full extent of the
>phenomenon is for me.)  the example above contrasts (for me) with the
>minimally different:
>   There were/*was drinks, music, and a strong desire for my body.
>arnold (zwicky at

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages
A-740 Wells Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: (517) 432-3099
Fax: (517) 432-2736
preston at

More information about the Ads-l mailing list