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There be

From Teflpedia

There be is an English lexical-grammatical structure, which combines existential there with the verb be as existential be to describe the existence of things.

Meaning[edit | edit source]

There indicates a place that is distant from the deictic centre.

Form[edit | edit source]

Basic form[edit | edit source]

The basic forms are in the following table:

Form Singular Plural Negative singular Negative plural Interrogative singular Interrogative plural Interrogative negative singular Interrogative negative plural
To-infinitive (simple) there to be there not to be n/a n/a n/a n/a
To-infinitive (perfect) there to have been there not to have been n/a n/a n/a n/a
Bare infinitive (simple) there be there not be
Bare infinitive (perfect) there have been
Gerund (simple) there being there not being
Gerund (perfect) there having been there not having been
Present simple there is there are there isn’t there aren’t
Present perfect there has been there have been there hasn’t been there have not been
Past simple there was there were there wasn’t there weren’t Was there...? Were there...? Was there not...? Were there not...?
Past perfect there had been there hadn’t been

While the perfect aspect can apply, the progressive aspect can’t be used; we don’t say *there are being.

With modal verbs[edit | edit source]

In addition, "there be" can take modal verbs, both full modal verbs and semi-modal verbs. Note that in these constructions, there is no object agreement, as they all take an infinitive; either a bare infinitive or to-infinitive.

Verb Simple Perfect
can there can be ?there can have been
could there could be there could have been
will there will be there will have been
would there would be there would have been
May there may be there may have been
might there might be there might have been
shall there shall be there shall have been
should there should be there should have been
must there must be there must have been
ought to there ought to be there ought to have been
need to there needs to be there needs to have been
have to there have to be there have/has to have been
used to there used to be -

Syntax[edit | edit source]

There is a book on the table.

In the sentence , the subject of this sentence is a book. There is typically analysed as an adverb. The auxiliary verb agrees with this subject, so if we add another book, we need to change this to:

There are two books on the table.

Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

For those with non-rhotic pronunciation, a linking /r/ is often desirable in there are, especially to distinguish it from they are, which has a linking /j/. There’s little point of students thinking of the right grammar, and then saying something that sounds wrong, such as something that will be heard as *“They are two pens on the table”.

Are in there are is often reduced to a schwa — /ðeərə/. There were is similarly reduced to /ðeəwə/, and there was to /ðeəwəz/, etc, etc.

Anticipate difficulties[edit | edit source]

Chinese students will often try to say *there has, or *there have, or just *have or *has (without there). This is because in similar situations in Chinese, they use 有 (Pinyin: yǒu). This frequently develops into a fossilised error.

References[edit | edit source]