Which is the correct form of the sentence?

There has been many instances of outbreaks in vaccinated populations


There have been many instances of outbreaks in vaccinated populations?

The question that this is supposed to be a duplicate of does not mention there has or there have. We have many learners here who are not going to be able to deduce much of anything from it.


The correct one is:

There have been many instances of outbreaks in vaccinated populations.

This is because of instances/outbreaks being plural and have is the correct plural form. Has is singular.

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The most formal version of this sentence is:

  • There have been many instances of outbreak in vaccinated populations.

In existential constructions like this, it is common for the verb to take its agreement from the noun phrase after the verb.

However! This is not always the case. When the auxiliary is contracted with the word there, we often see no agreement between the auxiliary verb and the noun phrase after it. This happens most often in speech and semi-formal or informal writing. In this case we have the verb BE appearing in a present perfect construction with the auxiliary verb HAVE:

  • There's been many instances of outbreaks in vaccinated populations.

In the example above we see a contraction of there and the auxiliary has. It does not matter that the following noun phrase instances of outbreaks is plural, we can still use the singular form has.

Notice, however, that is not usually considered grammatical if the words there and has are separate:

  • *There has been many instances of outbreaks in vaccinated populations. (X)

There are some very special cases, however, where we might be able to have a plural noun after the verb phrase has been:

  • There has been one funeral, two weddings, an earthquake and a change of government since you left.

In the sentence above, we see a co-ordination of noun phrases which would normally be considered plural. However, we see a singular verb form, has in this example.

If you are doing a test at school, it is probably better to make the auxiliary verb agree with the following noun phrase. But if you want to know what native speakers actually do, and what is actually grammatical, the answer is that both there have and there's are perfectly grammatical in this sentence. We do not often find there's with a plural noun phrase in formal writing though.

Hope this is helpful!

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  • 1
    +1 But I think that actually the most formal would be "there have been many instances of outbreak". Outbreaks, plural, are individual instances... Hope this is helpful! :-J – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 17 '15 at 15:43
  • @StoneyB Yes, 'twas indeed :-) Appreciate the friendly tag! Have had an edit, but don't think I'm going to try and explain that! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 17 '15 at 16:29

The logical subject of the statement is "instances of outbreaks", which is plural. If there were only one instance of outbreaks, it would be singular.

"There" as a pronoun is a dummy subject, which takes its number from the logical subject (in this case, "instances").

Therefore, the correct form of the sentence begins with "There have been..." or "There've been".

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  • That is incorrect. "There are" is the existential usage of the verb "to be." In this case, the subject is "instances of outbreaks" and the verb is merely "being" (although in the past tense). Or to put it another way, "there" is a dummy subject, with "instances" (the true subject) appearing as a complement to the verb. – Thriggle Feb 16 '15 at 17:32
  • 1
    Thanks for the clarification! I will correct my answer to state that the "logical subject" of the statement is "instances". – Thriggle Feb 16 '15 at 17:39

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