Can I write: "There is 300 tonnes of water"?

We can definitely write: "There are 300 bottles of water" but I am not sure if this is the case with tonnes, dollars, pounds .etc?

2 Answers 2


I must differ with the other answerer. I believe a singular verb is idiomatically much more appropriate here.

I will quote from Quirk's Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (1985 edition, pp. 757, 758).

The principle of notional concord accounts for the common use of a singular with subjects that are plural noun phrases of quantity or measure. The entity expressed by the noun phrase is viewed as a single unit:

  • Ten dollars is all I have left. ['That amount is ...']
  • Fifteen years represents a long period of his life. ['That period is ...']
  • Two miles is as far as they can walk. ['That distance is ...']
  • Two thirds of the area is under water. ['That area is ...']

Cf: Sixty people means a huge party. ['That number of people means ...']

Please also note, in contrast with the other answer, that ton and tonne are not synonyms. The latter word means "metric ton."

  • I disagree, slightly. Notional concord is messy. An example of the OP's intuition paired with your answer that is more idiomatic: "Bob: There are 300 tonnes of feathers over there. Betty: Wow, 300 tonnes of feathers is a big pile."
    – Yorik
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 19:41

Because you want to say about "tons" (plural) not about "one ton" (single), you should use "are":

(Maybe best way to use the word "tons" instead "tonnes" because this is more frequent form)

Below you can see result of ngram search for "tons", "tones" and "tonnes":

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