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Chapter 10: Patterns with there

There are two verb patterns that begin with the word there. Like introductory it, there does not carry any meaning in these patterns. English prefers to have old information at the beginning of a clause and new information at the end of a clause. If a clause does not contain any old information, having there at the beginning allows all the new information to be placed at the end of a clause. For example, the clause There were lizards on the floor has two pieces of new information: lizards and on the floor. You could say Some lizards were on the floor, but then some of the new information would be at the beginning of the clause. In the clause beginning with there, none of the new information comes at the beginning of the clause.

There are two ways of forming a negative in patterns with there. The verb may be made negative, for example with not, or the noun group may be made negative, for example with no. You can say There wasn't any evidence or There was no evidence.

The two patterns beginning with there are:

  • Pattern I: there V n
    There was no hope.
  • Pattern II: there V n prep/adv
    There are dangers here.

The verb be is by far the most frequent of the verbs that have these patterns.

Pattern I: there V n

The verb follows there and is followed by a noun group.

The noun group is the Subject. It agrees in number with the verb group: if the noun group is singular, the verb group is singular, and if the noun group is plural, the verb group is plural. However, if the noun group is a co-ordinated noun group, the verb group remains singular, as in There is a computer, a printer, and a photo-copying machine.

thereVerb groupnoun group  
ThereVerbSubjectAdjunct (optional)
Thereappeareda completely new problem.  
Therewasno moonthat night.
Thereremaindeep differences.  
Thereseemslittle hope of success.  

The noun group is usually indefinite: it begins with a determiner such as a or some, or a quantifier such as any or a few. If the noun group is plural, there is often no determiner at all. When the noun group is definite, beginning with a determiner such as the, this may be for one of three reasons:

1 It is used to change to a topic that is new in the conversation or writing but already known to the hearer or reader. The sentence often begins with And, Firstly, or Then.

  • And then there is the leadership crisis.

2 It is used when the noun group must be definite, for example because it includes a superlative adjective.

  • You have to send your horses where there are the best opportunities and that often means overseas.
562 3 It is used with always to indicate that something good or bad may happen, or that the hearer or reader has the opportunity to do something.
  • Be positive. There is always the chance that it may get better.
  • There is always the risk of a more serious injury if you use a spray.
  • And, of course, there is always the `off' button. You can always turn the television off.

In this pattern the noun group often includes a clause such as a relative clause, a that-clause, or a to-infinitive clause, or an adjective group following the noun. When the head of the noun group is a pronoun such as enough, little, or more, there is usually a clause following the pronoun.

  • Granted there are a great many who are extremely lean and wiry, but others can certainly become overweight.
  • Are there any exercises that will achieve this?
  • They get pleasure from the thought that there are whales swimming freely about.
  • In every love affair or marriage there comes a time when romance abates and only compatibility, affection, generosity and goodwill hold it all together.
  • And there are signs that the richer nations are waking up to the broader problem.
  • There was something strange about the flickering blue light.
  • There are only 100 places available, so book now.
  • There is never enough to go round and tempers are frayed.

The noun group may be the `-ing' form of a verb. In this case, it is always negative.

  • There's no denying that beautiful make-up looks better on beautiful skin.

Verbs with this pattern belong to the following meaning groups:

I.1 The `be' group

These verbs are concerned with something existing or something happening. We include here follow, which indicates that something happens after something else.

  • Thousands are wounded. Yet there appears little early prospect of a mass evacuation.
  • Was there any genuine prejudice?
  • Although there is no certain evidence to prove the origins of Gypsies, the earliest are usually thought to have moved westwards from India about nine centuries ago.
  • There exist some absolute limits to what human beings can know about their surroundings.
  • There followed months of research.
  • There remains one difficulty: how to describe the new wines from South Africa.
The verb seem is usually followed by a noun group beginning with little or no, or with the pronoun nothing.
  • There seems little point in adopting a different system.
appear be exist follow occur remain seem

The verb be is often used with a modal verb such as may, with a phrasal modal verb such as be bound to or be supposed to (see Chapter 11), or with a phrase with an adjective group such as be certain/likely/sure/unlikely to.

  • There was bound to be an increase in job losses.
  • There was certain to be speculation.
563 The to-infinitive form of the verb be is often used following a verb such as appear, continue, happen, need, seem, or tend, or following the passive of a verb such as believe, estimate, expect, know, reckon, report, rumour, say, see, think, or understand. The two verbs are in phase and form a complex verb group. The to-infinitive form of the verb exist is sometimes used with appear and seem.
  • There appeared to be no progress following today's talks.
  • There are reckoned to be thirty-seven different groups.
  • There were understood to be no injuries.
  • There seems to exist a large and impressive body of evidence that points to reincarnation.
I.2 The `emerge' group

These verbs are concerned with something coming into existence or starting to be seen.

  • Then there appear a number of teachers with circles of devotees and students.
  • There arises no question of loyalty to one's employers.
  • There emerges a picture of a woman who cares deeply for her man.
appear arise come develop emerge grow
grow up
Pattern II: there V n prep/adv

The verb follows there and is followed by a noun group. There is also a prepositional phrase or adverb group which usually comes after the noun group. Most of these verbs also have the pattern there V n.

The noun group is the Subject and the prepositional phrase or adverb group is an Adjunct.

thereVerb groupnoun groupprep. phrase or adverb group
ThereVerbSubjectAdjunct
Therewasno onethere.
Thereoccursdiscordin the marriage.
Thereremaineda riskin such a situation.

Sometimes the prepositional phrase or adverb group comes before there, as in For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, or after the verb, as in There was in the flat an ancient wood-burning stove.

The noun group is usually indefinite: if it is singular it begins with a determiner such as a or some, or a quantifier such as any or a few. If the noun group is plural, there is often no determiner at all, as the clause There are schools that will have to close.

Verbs with this pattern belong to the following meaning groups:

II.1 The `be' group

These verbs are concerned with something existing or something happening. This is a productive use: any verb which indicates where someone or something is, or how they move, can be used with this pattern, for example Near our camp there flowed a beautiful stream. We include in the list here those verbs, such as lie and stand, which are most frequently used in this way.

564 I just think there are great sources of pain in everyone.
  • In Brighton there exists an ancient custom of playing a Boxing Day game of bowls using oranges.
  • There seemed a note of venom in what he said.
In the case of lie, stand, and other verbs used productively in this way, the prepositional phrase or adverb group usually comes immediately after the verb or at the beginning of the clause, rather than after the noun group.
  • There lay between them something unspoken.
  • At one end of the room there stood a grand piano.
be exist lie occur remain seem stand

The verb be is often used with a modal verb, such as may, with a phrasal modal, such as be bound to or be supposed to, or with a phrase with an adjective group, such as be certain/likely/sure/unlikely to.

  • There may be a deeper truth here.
  • There's supposed to be a state of emergency in the city.

The to-infinitive form of the verb be is often used following appear or seem, or following the passive of a verb such as believe, estimate, expect, know, reckon, report, rumour, say, see, think, or understand. The two verbs are in phase and form a complex verb group.

  • There appeared to be a woman in the car, accompanied by a man.
  • There were reported to be wounded on both sides.
II.2 The `emerge' group

These verbs are concerned with something coming into existence or starting to be seen.

  • There appeared another little girl in her fantasy.
  • From amidst the disillusioned masses there arose a man who was to change the face of twentieth century history.
  • Out of all this there emerged many things that were positive, if also uncomfortable.
appear arise come develop emerge grow
grow up