from The Century Dictionary.

  • An obsolete form of -es.
  • The third person singular present indicative of the verb be. See be.
  • An obsolete form of -es.
  • A northern, and especially Scottish, form of -ish, as in Scottis (contracted Scots) for Scottish, Inglis for Inglish (English), etc.
  • An abbreviation of island.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb The third person singular of the substantive verb be, in the indicative mood, present tense. See be.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb Third-person singular simple present indicative form of be.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English; see es- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old English is, from Proto-Germanic *isti, a form of Proto-Germanic *wesanan (“to be”), from Proto-Indo-European *h₁ésti (“is”). Cognate with West Frisian is ("is"), Dutch is ("is"), German ist ("is"), Old Swedish is ("is"). The paradigm of "to be" has been since the time of Proto-Germanic a synthesis of four originally distinct verb stems. The infinitive form "to be" is from *bʰuH- (“to become”). The forms is and am are derived from *h₁es- (“to be”) whereas the form are comes from *iranan (“to rise, be quick, become active”). Lastly, the past forms starting with "w-" such as was and were are from *h₂wes- (“to reside”).



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  • Which is proper: "There are a bunch of kids in the theater" or "there is a bunch of kids in the theater"? Supposedly, the latter is more grammatically correct, but it just sounds wrong. What's a respectable pedant to do? I guess it all depends on what the definition of "is" is. ;-)

    January 16, 2008

  • *trying to figure out whether those are rhetorical questions*

    January 16, 2008

  • Go ahead and answer, if you're man enough. ;-)

    January 17, 2008

  • Easy. "Is." Even if it sounds wrong. All the respectable pedants are saying it. :-)

    Sincerely yours, A Crusty Old Editor

    January 17, 2008

  • So it applies to all groups: a ton, a plethora, a multitude, a lot? If you say so, dude, if you say so. But my inner writer, the part of me concerned with sentence flow, doesn't want to agree.

    January 17, 2008

  • What reesetee said. "is" is correct - if "are" doesn't sound wrong to you, maybe you're not trying hard enough.

    January 17, 2008

  • I guess I fail at Wordieing...

    January 17, 2008

  • Nah, you don't fail. It does sound funny, but yes, in general collective nouns go with "is." Now, "lot" doesn't follow that. You wouldn't say "A lot of people is going to the concert," for example, but you could say "A lot of antique lamps is going to be auctioned tomorrow" (defining lot here as a distinct parcel of merchandise.) Depends on what the definition of "lot" is.

    English ain't for sissies. ;-)

    January 17, 2008

  • Okay, editors and editrices, what about when I'm talking about a team? In the UK, teams are plural. So the England football team are a laughing stock. Arsenal were lucky on the weekend. But in North America, teams are singular, so the Canadian soccer team is a perennial underachiever. The American hockey team isn't any good. To my ears this sounds so, so wrong. But is it?

    Is one of these technically gramatically right and the other wrong, or is this a case of a legitimate transatlantic double standard?

    January 17, 2008

  • You could make the case either way, yarb. In fact, The Chicago Manual of Style, the guide many U.S. book editors follow, actually maintains that when used in a collective sense, such a noun may take either a singular or plural verb form. The difference depends on whether you want to emphasize the group or the individual members. Examples given: "The ruling majority is unlikely to share power" and "The majority of voters are satisfied" are both correct. The only proviso noted is that the writer keep the verb form consistent for each noun to avoid confusion. So by this standard, if uselessness wanted to, he could make the case for "There are a bunch of kids in the theater," although generally collective nouns take a singular verb in these here parts.

    What say you, sionnach? Any UK editors out there want to weigh in? ;-)

    January 17, 2008