There / They

REMEMBER:

GREEN for RIGHT
RED for WRONG

WHY IS THERE A PROBLEM?

We’ll put this one down to a slip of the tongue.

There is a tendency to say

They was . . .

instead of

There was . . .

Because the re sound in There is not pronounced clearly on some occasions, it sounds as if the word They is being spoken instead. Consequently, They is written.

A similar type of mistake occurs when of incorrectly becomes a in pronunciation – and, subsequently, in writing. Examples are: a bag of coal – a bag a [sic] coal, a glass a [sic] milk, a litre a [sic] petrol, a loaf a [sic] bread, a slip a [sic] the tongue, etc. This mistake is more noticeable in writing than in speech. I guess it’s just the way we say things!

EXPLANATION of RULE:

As They is a PERSONAL PRONOUN in the NOMINATIVE / SUBJECTIVE CASE, it represents a group of people, animals, things, etc. There, on the other hand, is either a PRONOUN, a NOUN, an ADJECTIVE, an ADVERB or an EXCLAMATION / INTERJECTION. Does this make there unique in the English language? Its PRONOUN ‘hat’ kicks in when it is followed by was / were, etc., when introducing a sentence.

However, the problem here is more of a pronunciation error than a grammatical one. It’s definitely not a case of the two PRONOUNS being used in the wrong context.

USAGE:

They was a fight outside the pub.
There was a fight outside the pub.

They wasn’t any milk in the fridge.
There wasn’t any milk in the fridge.

They were helicopters at the racecourse.
There were helicopters at the racecourse.

They would’ve been trouble if the goal had been awarded.
There would’ve been trouble if the goal had been awarded.

They was a wedding in the church.
There was a wedding in the church.

QUICK REVISION:

Generally, whatever words come into one’s mind, tend to be the words that end up on the page. If They is in the mind, there’s a good chance that They will appear on the page. Be careful with oral language. A slip a [sic] the tongue can have unwelcome consequences!

TEST 1:

Write They or There in the following sentences:

1. __________ were right.
2. __________ were bees in the hive.
3. __________ was a match in the field.
4. __________ were at the match.
5. __________ was a concert in the school.
6. __________ was a robbery at the post-office.
7. __________ was a party in the park.
8. __________ was a cruise ship in the harbour.
9. __________ would be fights outside the stadium, if the police weren’t on duty.
10. __________ would be waiting for me outside the stadium, if the police weren’t on duty.

ANSWERS:

1. They 2. There 3. There 4. They 5. to 9. There 10. They

TEST 2:

Write of or a in the following sentences:

1. There was a bag _____ potatoes in the kitchen.
2. There was a pair ____shoes under the table.
3. There was a heavy fall ____snow at half-time.
4. There was a load ___money in his back pocket.
5. There was a jar ____honey on the shelf.
6. There was a cup ____tea on the table.
7. There was a heap ____turf in the shed.
8. There was a shoal ___ fish swimming alongside the quay wall.
9. There were lumps ____coal on the hearth.
10. There were bottles ___water on the counter.

ANSWERS:

1. to 10. of

KEY ELEMENT OF LESSON:

They never comes immediately before was. In order to avoid making this mistake, a good tip is to say the word / sentence aloud before writing it. The mistake is more obvious when it’s audible, rather than when the words transfer straight from the mind to the page. Take it in three stages: compose in the mind, speak aloud & write down.

WATCH OUT FOR:

They were brilliant.
They were brilliant players.
There were brilliant players on both teams.

(The problem arises only with They was . . . / There was . . .)

DON’T FORGET:

There was a lot of tension during the penalty shoot-out.


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Top 20 Mistakes in Everyday English
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The Double Negative as in “I didn’t do nothing”

REMEMBER: GREEN for RIGHT RED for WRONG WHY IS THERE A PROBLEM? The message gets lost in the words that...

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