There’s contraction misuse afoot

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Question: I thought I’d feed you a couple ideas for future columns based on some of my own pet peeves. The first is actually a vocabulary issue, not grammar. But it involves the use of the word “myriad.” I think most people think they’re sounding really smart when they use this word, even when they’re using it incorrectly.

The second is much more pervasive and much more egregious in my opinion. That is the use of “there is” (or one of its variations) when they should be using “there are.” For example: “There’s lots of opportunities out there for new graduates.” What bothers me most about this misuse is that it’s so common among people, like business executives, public officials and others who you’d think would have had enough education to know better.  – Chris Painchaud, Carmel

 

Answer: The incorrect use of “there’s” is pretty common, isn’t it? It’s just so easy to say.

You’ve hit the nail on the head, though. For plural objects, as in “opportunities” above, the correct phrase would be “there are.” Even our loyal, if not always accurate, friend Microsoft Word knows that rule and will underscore an incorrect “there’s” with its helpful green squiggly. It’s hard to leave those in these columns, by the way, even for educational purposes.

In colloquial speech, I see how the misuse of “there’s” could have arisen. While “there’re” is technically grammatically correct, it’s awkward to say. And it doesn’t even save you a syllable. Of course, the better option is still to say “there are,” but, hey, pick your battles, you know?

In written communication, I would hope the misuse of “there’s” remains limited to texts, since most spell checks should catch that (and contractions are generally to be avoided in formal writing, anyway). In case you’re wondering why I use contractions in my column, it’s because I see it as a friendly, informal space where grammar enthusiasts can discuss the myriad peculiarities of language. And also I’m lazy.

As always, thanks for writing in, and feel free to keep the suggestions coming.

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