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"is" OR "are" How do you choose the correct one?

Date: May 28 2007

Topic: Grammar

Author: teachertim1969



Actually, I just saw a new member's profile and decided to respond here.

I noticed that the member zizi0928, in her profile, responded to the "Favourite Colour" and "Favourite Food" items by saying "there are more than one". And, I'm sure that many others may also make this simple mistake. So, please don't think I'm trying to pick on her, we all learn from our mistakes afterall!  :)

If you understand the situation it is easy to know how to fix it and you won't make the same mistake again!  :)

Although her meaning was clear, her grammar has a problem.

The prompts say "Favourite Food" and "Favourite Colour", singular, note that they don't say Foods or Colours, plural. So, the technically correct response should be a single food, or type of food, and a single colour.

Zizi wanted to say that she has more than one favourite food and more than one favourite colour. She did so, but we need to help her with the grammar problem.

I suppose you have already guessed that the problem lies in her using "are" instead of "is" in this case. In fact, if we just consider the response, then we can make a correct response using "are", i.e. "there are many".

However, we usually only use "is" when we are talking about one thing. e.g "That is the right one.", "Today is a good day." But, here it seems that we are talking about more than one thing. So, how can we use "is".

Do you know the English expression "There is more than one way to skin a cat."? I'm sure you agree that it's an awful thought, but what it basically means is that there are many ways to solve a problem, or deal with a situation.

Sometimes people will say "There are many ways to skin a cat.".

Can you see the difference?

There is (more than) one way...

There are many ways...

way... singular   ways... plural

food... foods

colour... colours

So, Zizi could say "There is more than one."

Finally, I will say that when we respond to question about ourselves we would often use different expressions to that.

For example we could say things like:

I have more than one favourite food.


I have (many)/(several)/(a number of) favourite foods.

I have more than one favourite colour.

By the way, note that, being Australian, I like to use British spellings. e.g. colOUr, not colOr.

I hope that this lesson helps you at least a bit. Please comment if you liked it, or if you found it too confusing.

Best wishes,



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Saudi Arabia

your lesson is awsome and helpful as well…..hope u'd be writing some more lessons of this type…....it waz of great help..thanks

02:37 PM Jun 10 2008 |

islamic girl

Saudi Arabia

Thank you

your lesson is great

12:05 PM Aug 14 2007 |



hey thanx…its really vrey helpful….

10:54 AM Aug 14 2007 |


Iran, Islamic Republic Of

hi.it is not never confusing…...so usefull.thanx

03:00 PM Jun 02 2007 |

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