Is vs Are

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Created by: Team English -, Last Updated: April 27, 2024

Is vs Are

Understanding the proper use of “is” and “are” forms the foundation of mastering English grammar, as these two words are pivotal in constructing clear and grammatically correct sentences. They are both present-tense forms of the verb “be,” which is not only the most frequently used verb in English but also serves as a crucial element in expressing the identity, qualities, and conditions of nouns. While “is” is reserved for use with third-person singular nouns and pronouns, such as “she,” “John,” and “Florida,” “are” broadens its scope to encompass the second-person pronoun “you” and plural nouns or pronouns, irrespective of the person, including combinations like “you and I” or “Jack and Diane.”

This article aims to demystify the distinction between “is” and “are,” ensuring that students grasp their correct application in sentences. By delving into their grammatical roles, we’ll illustrate the functional differences that dictate their usage, thereby equipping learners with the knowledge to avoid common pitfalls. As these verbs are integral to the English language, understanding their proper use is essential for anyone looking to improve their linguistic precision and clarity.

Is and Are – Meanings

The English language employs the verb “be” in several forms, among which “is” and “are” stand out for their frequent use in the present tense. These forms help construct sentences that describe the state, quality, or existence of subjects, making their correct usage essential for effective communication. The distinction between “is” and “are” hinges on the subject’s number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third).

Meaning of “Is”

“Is” is used with a singular subject in the third person. It serves to link the subject to a complement or an adjective that describes the subject’s state, identity, or quality. For example, in the sentence “The sky is blue,” “is” connects the subject “the sky” to the attribute “blue,” indicating the sky’s color at that moment. It’s the appropriate choice when referring to singular nouns (e.g., “The book is on the table.”) and third-person singular pronouns (e.g., “He is happy.”).

Meaning of “Are”

“Are”, on the other hand, is used with plural subjects and the second-person singular and plural pronoun “you.” It performs the same linking function as “is” but is appropriate when the subject of the sentence involves more than one entity or is directed towards the person being spoken to. For instance, in “The flowers are beautiful,” “are” links the plural subject “the flowers” to the complement “beautiful.” Similarly, in “You are correct,” “are” is used regardless of whether “you” refers to one person or several.

The correct choice between “is” and “are” thus depends on both the grammatical number of the subject and the context of the sentence. Mastery of their use is crucial for crafting grammatically sound and meaningful sentences in English, ensuring clear and precise communication.


In this tutorial, we explored “is” and “are,” which are both derived from the verb “to be.” This verb plays a key role in conveying the characteristics, identity, and state of being of nouns. “Is” finds its use alongside present-tense verbs and when referring to singular entities in the third person, such as “she,” “John,” or “Florida.” Conversely, “are” is applicable in sentences with present-tense verbs when addressing the second-person “you” or when the subject is plural, regardless of who is involved, examples being “you and I” or “Jack and Diane.”

Difference Between Is and Are

This table outlines the fundamental distinctions between “is” and “are” in English grammar, emphasizing their differences in number, person, and specific usage scenarios. These differences are crucial for forming grammatically correct sentences and conveying meaning accurately.

Aspect Is Are
Number Singular Plural
Person Third-person singular Second person (singular and plural), First and Third person plural
Usage with Pronouns He, She, It You, We, They
Example Sentences He is late. The cat is sleeping. You are right. They are on vacation.
Usage in Questions Is it raining? Are you ready?
With Collective Nouns The team is winning. The teams are competing.
With Uncountable Nouns Water is essential.
With Compound Subjects Peanut butter and jelly is my favorite. (viewed as a single item) Cats and dogs are pets.
In Conditional Sentences If he is tired, he should rest. If they are hungry, they will eat.
In Descriptive Phrases The book on the table is mine. The books on the shelf are colorful.

Examples of Is and Are

Understanding the correct usage of “is” and “are” is fundamental in English grammar. These verbs, which are forms of the verb “to be,” serve to link the subject of a sentence with a complement or adjective that describes or identifies the subject. Their use depends on the number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third) of the subject. To help illustrate these points more clearly, let’s explore some examples.

Examples of “Is”

  1. The weather is beautiful today.
  2. She is an excellent teacher.
  3. This is the best coffee I’ve ever had.
  4. The movie is starting in ten minutes.
  5. His response is not what I expected.

Examples of “Are”

  1. The children are playing in the park.
  2. You are invited to the wedding next month.
  3. The cookies are ready to be taken out of the oven.
  4. These are the guidelines for the project.
  5. The lights are too bright in this room.

When to Use Is and Are

Usage of  “Is”

  • With Singular Nouns: Use “is” when the subject of your sentence is a singular noun. For example, “The book is on the table.”
  • With Third-Person Singular Pronouns: “Is” pairs with third-person singular pronouns such as “he,” “she,” and “it.” Example: “She is walking her dog.”
  • Describing One Item or Concept: When referring to a single item or concept, even if it’s made up of multiple parts, “is” is appropriate. For example, “Peanut butter and jelly is my favorite sandwich.”
  • With Uncountable Nouns: When the subject is an uncountable noun that represents a singular idea or quantity, use “is.” For example, “Information is crucial for making informed decisions.”
  • In Fixed Expressions: Some expressions traditionally use “is,” regardless of the rules above. For example, “What is going on?”

Usage of “Are”

  • With Plural Nouns: Use “are” when the subject of the sentence is a plural noun. For example, “The books are on the shelf.”
  • With Second-Person Pronouns: Regardless of the number, use “are” with the second-person pronoun “you.” For example, “You are welcome to join us.”
  • With First and Third-Person Plural Pronouns: “Are” is used with “we,” “they,” and any other plural pronouns. For example, “We are planning a trip.”
  • Describing Multiple Items or Concepts: When the subject involves multiple entities, “are” is the right choice. For example, “The cats are asleep.”
  • In Questions Involving Plurality or Second Person: For questions targeting a plural subject or “you,” use “are.” For example, “Are the keys on the table?”

Understanding when to use “is” and “are” is fundamental for constructing grammatically correct sentences in English, ensuring clarity and precision in communication.

Is vs. Are with Collective Nouns

Collective nouns refer to groups made up of members, such as “team,” “family,” or “committee.” Whether to use “is” or “are” depends on whether the group is being considered as a single unit or as individual members performing separate actions.

When to Use “Is”:
Use “is” when the collective noun is viewed as a single entity or unit.


  1. The team is winning the championship.
    Here, the team acts as a single unit toward the goal of winning.
  2. The committee is making its final decision today.
    The committee is acting together to make one decision.

When to Use “Are”:
Use “are” when emphasizing the individual actions or differences within the group.


  1. The team are eating at different restaurants tonight.
    The members of the team are performing separate actions.
  2. The committee are divided on their opinions regarding the policy.
    Individual members of the committee have different opinions.

Is vs. Are with Mass Nouns

Mass (or uncountable) nouns describe things that cannot be counted individually, such as “milk,” “information,” or “sand.” They typically require singular verbs.

When to Use “Is”:
“Is” is used because mass nouns are treated as singular entities.


  1. Information is vital for making informed decisions.
    “Information” cannot be counted and is seen as a singular entity.
  2. Rice is a staple food in many countries.
    “Rice” is used as a singular entity despite being made up of countless grains.

When to Use “Are” with Mass Nouns:

Typically, “are” is not used directly with mass nouns because they are singular. However, when mass nouns are part of a phrase indicating plurality or when they imply multiple types or instances of something, “are” might be contextually correct in more complex constructions.


  1. Incorrect Direct Usage: Furniture are expensive.
    Correct: Pieces of furniture are expensive.
    In the corrected sentence, “pieces of” turns the mass noun “furniture” into a countable concept, making the use of “are” appropriate.
  2. Contextual Use: There are different types of rice available.
    While “rice” is a mass noun and usually pairs with “is,” in this sentence, “are” is used because the focus is on “types” (plural) of rice rather than on rice as an undivided substance

Is vs. Are with “A Number Of” / “A Group Of” / “A Pair Of”

These expressions can lead to confusion, but the choice between “is” and “are” generally depends on whether the noun following these phrases is countable and whether it is viewed collectively or individually.

When to Use “Are” with “A Number Of”:
“A number of” implies multiple items or individuals, so “are” is used.


  1. A number of students are studying in the library.
    The phrase indicates several students, hence “are.”
  2. A number of solutions are available for this problem.
    Multiple solutions exist.

When to Use “Is” with “A Group Of” / “A Pair Of”:
These phrases usually precede a collective or paired noun, treated as a singular entity.


  1. A group of tourists is visiting the museum.
    The group acts as a single unit.
  2. A pair of shoes is under the bed.
    The pair is considered one item.

There Is vs. There Are

The choice between “there is” and “there are” depends on the number (singular or plural) of the noun that follows.

When to Use “There Is”:
Used before a singular noun or an uncountable noun.


  1. There is a book on the table.
    “Book” is a singular noun.
  2. There is milk in the fridge.
    “Milk” is an uncountable noun.

When to Use “There Are”:
Used before plural nouns.


  1. There are three books on the shelf.
    “Books” is plural.
  2. There are many reasons to celebrate.
    “Reasons” is plural.

Understanding these distinctions helps ensure grammatical accuracy and clarity in communication, allowing for more precise and effective expression.

Exercise Problems for “Is vs Are”

  1. There ________ a book on the desk.
  2. The glasses ________ on the kitchen counter.
  3. ________ there any water left in the bottle?
  4. The cat ________ sleeping in the sunbeam.
  5. ________ the keys in your pocket?
  6. My favorite part of the day ________ the morning.
  7. The children ________ playing in the park.
  8. How much ________ the tickets to the concert?
  9. ________ it true that the museum ________ closed on Mondays?
  10. The team ________ ready for their big game tomorrow.

Download Answers in PDF


What Is the Rule for Using Is or Are?

The rule for using “is” or “are” depends on the subject’s number: “is” for singular, and “are” for plural. Use “is” with third-person singular subjects, and “are” with plural subjects and with “you,” regardless of singularity.

Can You End a Sentence with Is or Are?

Yes, you can end a sentence with “is” or “are.” This often occurs in questions (e.g., “Who is there?”) and statements (e.g., “That is what matters.”) where the verb naturally falls at the end.

When Should I Use the Word Is?

Use the word “is” with singular subjects or with third-person singular pronouns (he, she, it) to describe a state, existence, or condition. It’s appropriate for situations implying unity or singularity.

Do You Say 2 Is or 2 Are?

For numbers, use “are” when referring to plural entities, so it’s “2 are.” For example, “2 dollars are on the table.” This aligns with the plural nature of the subject being referred to

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