There be

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

Form[edit]

Basic form[edit]

The basic forms are in the following table:

Form Singular Plural
To-infinitive (simple) there to be
To-infinitive (perfect) there to have been
Bare infinitive (simple) there be
Bare infinitive (perfect) there have been
Gerund (simple) there being
Gerund (perfect) there having being
Present simple there is there are
Present perfect there has been there have been
Past simple there was there were
Past perfect there had been

Note that while the perfect aspect can apply, the progressive aspect can't be applied; we don't say *"there are being".

With modal verbs[edit]

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 -

Pronunciation[edit]

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 students thinking of the right grammar, and then saying something that sounds like e.g. *"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. [table needed]

Anticipate difficulties[edit]

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

References[edit]