What verb form should I use when talking about two uncountable items?

Which of these sentences is correct?

1.There are lightning and thunder.

2.There is lightning and thunder.

2 Answers 2


Lightning and thunder are both uncountable nouns, but there are two of them, i.e. it is possible to count uncountable-noun words. For this reason we use the plural form are:

Lightning and thunder are both natural phenomena.

The confusion arises because we also have an idiomatic phrase in English thunder and lightning, which is treated as a (singular) noun phrase:

There is thunder and lightning in the sky.

The thunder and lightning is pretty scary, huh?

Technically you could break the noun-phrase from the singular "thunder and lightning" back into its constitutent parts of "thunder" and "lightning" and so something like this is technically grammatical:

(X) The thunder and lightning are pretty scary.

It is grammatical (replace the nouns to see this fact: "the rain and hail are pretty scary!" is perfectly grammatical), but it is extremely unidiomatic, and no native English speaker would say it.


There is lightning and thunder.

This is the correct usage of the verb form. However I'm unclear of the reason why (maybe someone could elaborate.

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