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I'm aware of these phrases that people usually use:

  • A lot of...
  • Lots of...
  • A load of...
  • Loads of...

And I would think those phrases are interchangeably used without changing the meaning or something, until I saw a dispute between some people in the comment that someone said it would sound uneducated to their ears if people said:

There is lots of

They explained that lots shouldn't be used with "is", but "are" should since it's plural. So, did I misunderstand all this time if I thought they were the same?

According to them, the correct use should be:

  • There is a lot of...

  • There are lots of

From that, I imply that they might think:

  • There is lots of...

  • There are a lot of...

are utterly wrong. Is my interpretation correct?

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2 Answers 2

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In the construction

There is lots of money available for biological research

“lots of” is being used as an adjectival phrase to qualify that the size of the noun being discussed, namely a pool of money available for a specific purpose, is large. It is a single pool, and the verb “is” correctly matches the singular complement.

Whatever people may have said in a comment, I doubt they actually would say

There are lots of money available for biological research.

On the other hand, no one would say

There is lots of unsuccessful applicants to Harvard Law School.

Here the noun being modified, “applicants,” is plural, and people match the number of verb and noun by saying

There are lots of unsuccessful applicants to Harvard Law School.

Obviously, when “lots” is used in its original sense of “roughly fungible units,” it will take a plural verb. But in those cases where “lots of” is being used adjectivally, a use that linguistically evolved from a noun phrase, what determines the number of the verb in the clause is the number of the noun modified. Unlike adjectives in Latin, adjectives in English do not agree with nouns being modified in number, gender, and case.

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  • Thanks, therefore, what about my understanding? Could those quantifiers be used interchangeably, or not? (Assuming I will make sure the verb and the noun match) Also, the person just mentioned that "there is lots of (uncountable noun)" doesn't sound right to their ears, sorry I don't remember the noun.
    – user516076
    May 25, 2022 at 1:38
  • Yes, when those phrases are used as quantifiers, their meanings are is interchangeable. It is probably unfair of me to comment on a thread that I have not seen. Nevertheless, I say that “There are lots of water in that reservoir” is simply ungrammatical. May 25, 2022 at 1:54
  • Under Nottinghamshire, there is lots of coal in the ground. May 25, 2022 at 7:10
  • Though strictly incorrect, many people will use "there's lots" without any consideration for singular or plural. Toys Я Us for decades ran an advert "'There's millions' said Geoffrey 'all under one roof'" which made me squirm every time I heard it. You will hear similar in conversation & even on TV every day. May 25, 2022 at 8:24
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[1] [A lot of work] was done.

[2] [A lot of mistakes] were made.

[3] [Lots of work] was done.

[4] [Lots of mistakes] were made.

"Lot" and "lots" are non-count quantificational nouns here. They are not modifiers, but heads of the bracketed noun phrases with the of preposition phrases as their complement. Importantly, this "lot" is number transparent, in that it allows the number of the noun (called the oblique) that is complement of the preposition of to determine the number of the whole noun phrase.

Thus in [1], the singular noun "work" determines that the whole NP is singular so the verb is singular "was". In [2] plural "mistakes" determines that the whole NP is plural, so the verb is plural "were". The same applies in [3] and [4].

When the "lot(s) of" expression is used as complement of "be", with "there" as subject, the verb form agrees with the oblique. But in informal style, especially in present tense declarative with reduced is, both singular and plural verb forms are found with plural obliques:

There are a lot of mistakes to correct.

%There's lots of mistakes to correct.

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  • One more question I need to ask please. Is this correct or not: "There is lots of money on the table". In this case, money is uncountable, and I use "lots of", is it allowed to write this way? Thanks in advance.
    – user516076
    May 25, 2022 at 10:10
  • @user516076 Yes, "money" is singular, so the verb should be singular "is". Uncountable nouns are usually singular.
    – BillJ
    May 25, 2022 at 12:13

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