7

I know for a fact that you can use plural nouns after "there's", which is an existential construction. I encountered a post on Stack Overflow today which went like this:

. . . this is questions.

Now, of course it was ungrammatical because what the poster actually meant was "these are questions", but that's not my concern.

Is there a context where "This is questions" would ever be grammatical? I'm thinking it should be a standalone sentence, "this" being its subject and "questions" or any other plural noun, its predicative complement.

I took a peek at the Wikipedia article on existential clauses but there was no mention of "this". Considering it's traditionally classified as a demonstrative pronoun, I would think it would've been listed there.

  • 2
    I posted this in chat, but I think it might be helpful here as an example : "This is not speculation. This is facts, based on what we've seen first-hand," – ColleenV parted ways Mar 30 '17 at 15:05
  • @ColleenV I want it to say 'these are the facts' or 'this is fact'. Grammar is hard! – WRX Mar 30 '17 at 15:13
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    @Willow I want to reword that as well, but I have found quite a few examples of that type of usage after I looked. This post in chat made me go looking: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/36388301#36388301 – ColleenV parted ways Mar 30 '17 at 15:14
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    @ColleenV At the risk of looking like an idiot, I'm not sure that is grammatically correct, given that you're talking about "facts" in the plural? Definitely the sort of thing people might say though. – SteveES Mar 30 '17 at 15:30
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    Only if "questions" stood for (was the name of) something like a period of time devoted to questions, at a public forum or town council, for example. Please be seated, Mr Jones. This is "Questions" not "Comments". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 30 '17 at 15:36
11

As long as the this is perceived as singular and the questions are perceived as plural there's no problem.

Consider the following example:

There's only one thing you need to ask, and this is questions.

  • +1 English only requires the verb to agree in number with the subject. It doesn't require an object or complement to agree. The complement normally will have the same plurality because of the meaning of "is", not because of grammar rules. – James K Mar 31 '17 at 15:15
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    "that is" would be better here. – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 31 '17 at 16:09
  • @BoundaryImposition There's no doubt about that - but it wouldn't answer the question! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 1 '17 at 15:22
  • No, but at least it wouldn't answer the question wrongly :) We don't make up phrases in order to create answers! – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 1 '17 at 23:52
  • @Araucaria: There is more to language than grammar. I could tell you that "the clouds are made of hippos" but it wouldn't mean anything. – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 2 '17 at 0:56
19

Here's an uncommon situation where it could work: when the antecedent of this is singular. It occurs in Laura K. Lawless, The Everything French Phrase Book:

The only exception to this is questions.

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    But isn't the subject in this sentence "the only exception" and not "this"? I was looking for an example where "this" is the subject. – M.A.R. Mar 30 '17 at 14:25
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    I would kind of like to rewrite that sentence as "Questions are the only exception to this rule". – ColleenV parted ways Mar 30 '17 at 14:27
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    @M.A.R. The subject of the sentence is "The only exception to this" - within which the head noun is "exception", not "this". (which is what you were getting at, I think) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 30 '17 at 19:39
  • Well that's better than my plan to end a sentence with "this is" and start one with "Questions". – Joshua Mar 31 '17 at 19:04
16

You could use that phrase if you were talking about the word "questions" itself as a singular object, although it would probably be surrounded by quote marks when doing this. E.g.

[blah blah blah], this is "questions" used in context.

Or

An example of this is "questions".

Another way to get this situation would be if a singular object was named after a plural. A common example would be nicknames, e.g. "Bones" in Star Trek. Another example:

This is Questions. We call him that because he asks a lot of them.

8

You could use "this is questions" in a context where questions is a verb, like "The man who does not recognize what this is questions whether it is useful."

This is really splitting "this is" and "questions" across two different phrases, though; I can't see how "this is questions" could be used as a standalone sentence.

3

You could get this is questions in a sentence in various ways. This doesn't seem to be in any of the previous answers:

"This is mine?"

"Don't keep asking those this is questions, they should be 'is this' questions."

(This post doesn't necessarily constitute an endorsement of the position stated in the exchange.)

3

I would still argue that it's ambiguous, but you might consider a teacher handing a student a sheet of paper with questions written on it saying:

This is questions for you to consider as you write the essay.

In the same vein, if you wanted it to be a stand-alone sentence, try this:

I have provided a couple sheets of sample homework assignment problems to get you started. This is questions. This is answers.

It's the same phrasing, where because of context, the object of "this" is actually just implied and might be "sheet of paper" or "list".

2

Using plural nouns after "There's" is considered poor grammar even though you will hear it used by some native speakers, as in "There's questions to be answered." (Bad Grammar). The reference for it cited by OP simply says that you will see it used, but does not comment on the correctness of it. Probably because this is ultimately a philosophical issue. The answer is A) You will see it used, and B) it is still not considered grammatical.

To make "this is questions" work in the sense you want (not by a trick of splitting/splicing different phrases), this can refer to a thing/concept which in turn may be or consist of questions. But it still sounds weird.

"She knows what he wants, and this is questions."

2

That would be correct if you were introducing your pet kitten or puppy.

Q. "What a cute puppy - whats his name?"

A. "This is 'Questions', because he's always asking questions"

1

If the quoted text had been followed by multiple questions, it might have been interpreted to mean, "This [post] is not [an] answer. This [post] is [a set of] questions."

I think an argument could be made that all bracketed words except "an" can be dropped from the quoted sentences above, with a result that might be a bit informal or even awkward but that would have agreement between singular and plural where it is needed.

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