“There’s” and “There are”

By Maeve Maddox

An odd-looking contraction I’ve noticed recently is “there’re” for there are.

Haiti Airport Baggage Handlers, There’re Just Too Many!
There’re too many kids
There’re Just A Few Days Left
If There’re Seasons…(song title)

Contractions are supposed to be easy to say. For example, they’re for they are is easy to utter, but adding another re to there to create “there’re” produces a word difficult to pronounce.

I wonder if this nearly unpronounceable contraction may have something to do with the proliferation of there’s to begin sentences in defiance of the rules of agreement between subject and verb: There’s ten members on the council.
Perhaps the speaker knows better, but is in “contraction mode” and at the last minute decides that ungrammatical there’s is a better choice than unpronounceable “there’re.”

Besides being difficult to pronounce, “there’re” looks peculiar. In writing intended to be read by others, it’s probably best to avoid such ungainly contractions as “there’re” and “where’re.”

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22 Responses to ““There’s” and “There are””

  • Cecily

    In written English, it is often appropriate to reduce the number of contractions.

    However, in non-rhotic accents, including most BrE ones, “there’re” is not at all difficult to say: thair-uh.

  • Peter

    It’s not difficult to say (sounds exactly like “Sarah”), and it is, in fact, what most people probably say most of the time: hence the contraction.

  • Peter

    (correction: of course not exactly like “Sarah”, since it starts with “th” not “s” 🙂 And when unstressed I suppose it’s more like “sirrah”…)

  • Tony Hearn

    The use of “there’s” with plural complements has become very common in everyday spoken language, so much so that it begins to sound normal! I wonder whether the sequence has not been, e.g.: ‘There’s a lot – there’s plenty – there’s lots’, or something similar pari passu.

  • sharon

    I’m still learning. I want to know which is question is correct?

    How is your family?

    OR

    How are your family?

  • folive

    “There’s” and “There are”
    I believe that while “there’re” may in written form may look difficult to pronounce, in spoken English, it merely represents a pronunciation change that allows more rapid speech. It represents a shift from |ðe(ə)r| + |är| in (There are) to |ðe(ə)r| + ər in (There’re). The apostrophe doesn’t then represents an ellision in speech but simply a change from a stressed vowel to an unstressed schwa which allows for more rapid speech.

  • phil dragonetti

    Although I would not use “there’re” in writing,
    in reflecting on my own way of speaking ,
    I realize that I often say “there’re” to mean “there are”.

    It sounds like “There ruhr”—and is very easy to say—
    because the mouth, already in the position required to say “there”, maintains the same position to say “ruhr”.

    “There are” is more difficult to say because the mouth position for “there” is different for the position to say “are”.
    Therefore, to say “there are’ requires a change of mouth position.

    Most speakers actually say “there’re” in place of “there are”—because it is easier to pronounce.

  • Don

    Many people speaking simply pronounce there’re as there. And if the writing style is casual, “there are” often seems too formal; unfortunately, “there’re” does look awkward in print.

  • Sally

    This one absolutely makes me crazy. I can’t believe the number of educated people who use statements such as ‘there’s ten people waiting in line’. What’s wrong with saying ‘There are ten people in line’? If it’s that awkward to use ‘there’re’, take a nanosecond and use an extra word.

    I think it’s sheer laziness, and probably partially due to hearing it on TV – again, on the news and by professionals who really should know better.

    Sorry…no tolerance for this one whatsoever. The more it’s heard, the more ‘normal’ it will seem. No wonder kids (and many adults) can’t write properly!

  • Michael

    @Cecily, I’m a non-rhotic speaker and I tried to say “there’re” and failed utterly. Instead, I made a sound sort of like a dying horse. 🙂

  • Cecily

    @Michael: Very funny. What about Peter’s suggestion: can you say “Sarah”, because apart from the initial consonant, they sound the same?

  • Michael

    @Cecily: You mean “therah”? Well, yes, I can, though if I were to write it – which I wouldn’t – I think it would be “there’a”. Either way, I look like a complete goose.

  • Don

    Some likely are impressed by “folive’s” apparent erudition.

  • nepeta

    @sharon

    “How is your family?” is correct.

    There may be several people IN the family, but there is only one family.

    The same rule applies for all groups; there can be many people within the group, but as long as you’re only talking about ONE group, it’s singular.

  • Kathryn

    Gee, I don’t see the problem with pronouncing “there’re.” It is pronounced exactly like therer, as in the sequence “there, therer, therest. . .” Well, OK. I know. But how about “fair, fairer, fairest?” And I think it looks awkward in print primarily because we are not accustomed to seeing it in print. Not that that is an argument for its more common use in formal writing. On the other hand. . .so much more of our informal communication these days is written, and in informal written communication there, um, are good reasons to use informalities such as contractions more than one would in formal speech.

  • me

    It does not sound like “thair-uh” unless you have some sort of british accent. If you’re american it sounds like “thair-er” which is kind of hard to pronounce.

  • sharon

    Thank you, nepeta. I understand!

  • Brad Mathews

    When in doubt, don’t use contractions.
    For instance, if “there’s” is wrong and “there’re” is hard to read, just say ‘there are’.

  • John Mills

    This is something that has bothered me since a came to North America in ’81. Now I have the explanation – “there’s” is used in the plural case because 1. “there’re” is too hard to pronounce for those without a British accent and 2. because those without a British accent are too lazy to say “there are”.

    But what explains the incorrect use of “bring” when “take” is required.

    My first morning in NA I thought the weatherman on the local radio was expecting to see me at the studio that day when he advised me to bring my umbrella when I left the house.

  • FMasic

    Aah, ten years ago in primary school (age 4-7, approximately), it was an extremely common word (in West London).

    I haven’t heard it since then really, except while playing Zelda: Ocarina Of Time (released in 1998). It’s a brilliant word, and should make a comeback, in my opinion.

    I usually pronounce it like there, but with a strong “r” between the /e/ and /ə/.

  • me2

    @me and others. Why is thair-er hard to pronounce? As someone pointed out, fairer is not hard. What about a bearer of bad news? Do you resort to “bear are of bad news” in this case? What if someone is in error? I guess err are. What’s rarer: terror or terr are? Is the devil a where are of Prada?

  • frank gadzik

    My first take is that conservatives pressured the networks into using “there’s” in place of “the’re” in order to letigitimize George W. Bush’s flagrant fracturing of the English language. However Mr. Bush’s speech mannerisms are simply a reflection of his Texas upbringing; and I’ve since learned that Texas is the source of perhaps a majority of the text books used in American schools. So maybe there’s a movement to save the State of Texas further embarassment by having the media change the rules of grammer by simply breaking them.

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