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I learned that in English we can only use a with single verb, and we cannot use it with are. Also, I learned that when we define the word for the first time we need to use a. I am really confused about using a and the in my sentences.

For example,

1- There are a wide range of car types.

2- There are wide range of car types.

When can I use a and when can't I? Any help please?

  • According to Google Ngrams, only about 1 in 5 Brits (and about 1 in 8 Americans) use plural are in your context. But note that (1) - relatively speaking this is an emerging usage, which will almost certainly become more common in the future. And (2) - initially it's more likely to occur in casual / colloquial contexts, which tend to be under-reported by sources like Google Books. My personal feeling is that in normal BrE conversation, singular and plural are currently about equally likely, but plural will become the norm eventually. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 26 '18 at 14:06
  • @FumbleFingers I don't think this particular shift is really going to become the norm, as it seems to fall under the category of thinking patterns described here. It is a mental shortcut. Once an editor sits down and thinks about the text, this usage will in most cases be corrected. – tenebris2020 Feb 26 '18 at 14:27
  • @FumbleFingers Also, mathematically, it was 1 in 6 Brits :) (Another mental shortcut.) 0.0000040% for "there are", 0.0000200% for "there is". Together, that's 0.0000240%. 1 "there-are" Brit to 5 "there-is" Brits make 1 in 6. (That said, I'm not sure the verb "make" that I just used shouldn't be "makes.") – tenebris2020 Feb 26 '18 at 14:38
  • @tenebris2020: I just copied the values 204466 and 37854 from the rightmost (most recent) ones on the chart I linked to under your answer. And I rounded 5.401437100438527 down to the nearest integer, which seems fine to me. As I pointed out, actual colloquial usage will be under-represented in such contexts, because by the very nature of their job, copy-editors are always trying to put the brakes on language change. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 26 '18 at 14:46
  • @FumbleFingers Google Books' cup currently runneth over with self-published crap. We need to take that into account, too. I'd say it would balance out the equation. – tenebris2020 Feb 26 '18 at 14:51
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A is an article. Articles accompany nouns, not verbs. Thus, an "a" article is perfectly possible in situations (that crop up from time to time in questions here) where there is a singular/plural discrepancy between the subject and the predicate that contains a noun (e.g., "Our problem was the widespread views on this subject"). For a situation of "n. pl. + are + n. sg.", a real-world usage example would be:

The methane detections were a big surprise. (source)

"Were" is governed by the plural of "detections". All of those multiple things were one single big surprise. Hence "a".

Another example:

Things that were a hassle should be shared. (source)

Same logic. We have "were" because the word "things" is plural. But all of them are "a hassle".

In the case of your sentence, there is no such discrepancy. There is only one noun that has to be taken into account. It's the noun phrase "a wide range of car types." The main word here is "range". Thus, you must bring the verb in agreement with the word "range."

So it should be, "There is a wide range of car types."

It's not the article that is determined by a verb. Both the article and the verb are determined by a noun. The verb would be determined by the subject of the sentence. However, the predicate "was/were + noun phrase" could have a noun in any state of countability or multiple-ness (it's not a word, but you know what I mean).

Thus, yes, "a" can come after "are". It's just not determined by "are."

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  • 1
    It's worth pointing out that an increasing number of people would use the plural verb in the cited context - on the semantic basis that it's more significant that there are many car types than that these happen to be referenced using singular a [wide] range. As I expected, this change is currently more marked in BrE. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 26 '18 at 13:59
  • @FumbleFingers This is still not really grammatical. We have a couple of similar situations in my native language/s, and I often have to edit out usage where the general "plural-ness" of what is described causes people to use a verb in plural when it should have been used in singular. Maybe someday usage will shift things in this direction, but as of now even your ngram shows that usage with "are" with "a wide range" is in clear minority. As it should be. We need to remember that Google Books also dips into the volume of self-published work that has never been touched by an editor's hand. – tenebris2020 Feb 26 '18 at 14:03
  • @FumbleFingers I have recently insisted on a mis-agreement between the subject being "A and B" and verb in singular. Had to write a whole treatise to defend keeping this mis-agreement from another editor who wanted the verb in plural. It was a totally different situation though, syntactically. – tenebris2020 Feb 26 '18 at 14:08
  • I think OP's context here is similar to the question of whether things like the company, the government, the police, the family,... should be singular or plural. About which many BrE speakers are quite relaxed (we might use either, depending on both existing context and intended nuance), but Americans still tend to favour strictly logical syntax even if this gives rise to semantic dissonance. In short, I think you might be conflating "grammar" with "logic" here, and downplaying the relevance of actual usage. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 26 '18 at 14:37
  • @FumbleFingers Yes, "the company", "the govt" and such are all a no-man's land between singular and plural, and yes, decisions will be made with regard to what a given speaker will want to underscore in each specific case. That said, I don't conflate grammar with logic. I'm perfectly aware that grammar is not always logical, and I'm in no way a strict rule keeper (as evidenced by what I've written above). However, grammar rules get overruled for reasons that are outside the grammar itself, and these cases vary from situation to situation... [contd.] – tenebris2020 Feb 26 '18 at 14:44

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