Why can't we just say:

There a book in my table.

OR just

Is a book in my table.

Why in English do we need: "there is"?

  • 1
    You can say anything you like. The person you're addressing may well understand what you mean. But you are not using correct sentences- just phrases. Are you asking a question or making a statement? It's hard to know your intention. Apr 7, 2022 at 13:57
  • 2
    It's hard to give a short answer to "why" questions beyond "because that's how English is." Every English sentence has to have at least a subject and a verb. If you leave one of them out, it's not a proper English sentence.
    – stangdon
    Apr 7, 2022 at 14:08
  • It actually is grammatical in a select few dialects (namely African American English) to omit "is" like that. See my answer here about the zero copula.
    – Laurel
    Apr 7, 2022 at 17:40
  • Are you asking about the difference between "There is a book on the table." and "A book is on the table."?
    – Mohd Sala
    Apr 7, 2022 at 18:34
  • 1
    I've voted to close. There can be no objective answer to "why is English grammar" questions. English is not a designed language, it is a natural language. It is possible to create a language in which the construction "there is" doesn't exist, but that language is not (standard) English.
    – James K
    Apr 7, 2022 at 18:44

2 Answers 2


English does not have an elaborate word-ending structure for every part of speech. For example there are no unique word endings for cases such as nominative, possessive, instrumental, dative, etc. What a word does in a sentence is dependent on its order and what words came before it.

So this means:

  • word order tends to matter

  • various words heavily "signal" what's coming next in the sentence, in addition to their meaning.

What a word does in an English sentence is dependent on its order and what words came before it.


There is a dummy subject, one that only exists because of the rules of English grammar. Every correctly formed sentence in English (in most dialects, in formal writing) has at least a subject, the person or thing that is doing something, and a verb, the action that the subject is doing. If you leave either one out (even if the verb is only to be), the sentence is not grammatical.

Other languages are different, like Russian, where you can leave out the verb to be:
Я студент, literally "I student"

or Spanish, where you can leave out the subject:
Soy un estudiante, literally "Am a student"

but in English you can't leave out either one.

What if we only want to talk about the existence of something? In English, the most common way to talk about the existence of something is using a dummy subject. Remember, you can't just say "Is a book", because that has no subject. The most common dummy subject is there, as in "There is a book". It just means "A book exists", but it is the more idiomatic way to talk about the existence of something.

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