English Grammar Questions

One of the most fascinating things about learning a 2nd language is revisiting our first language, which is English for probably the majority of us.

I was correcting a Japanese writer’s English and was told that the following sentence is grammatically incorrect according to her tutor:

“There is his apple on the table”

This sentence is wrong apparently because there is a rule that you can’t follow ‘there is’ with a pronoun, Why?

It seems problematic as there are two meanings:

Over there is his apple on the table’ [directional] & There exists his apple on the table [highlighting existence] (the table may be in the next room for example)

Now in Welsh we don’t seem to have any problem as we can clearly differentiate between yna ‘over there’ and bod [existence]:

Mae o afal ar y bwrdd = There is an apple on the table
Mae o ei hafal ar y bwrdd = There is his apple on the table
Dyna ei hafal ar y bwrdd = There is his apple on the table [directional] Or
Mae o ei afal ar y bwrdd yna = There is his apple on the table, there

So why is there a problem in English, Can anyone shed any light on this? Or correct my Welsh sentences if they are wrong?

I can’t help you with either, but I can make the observation that the Japanese language is fairly loose in it’s use of pronouns. Basically if it can avoid using them it seems to do so and relies instead on context. Thus, I would imagine that Japanese students of English have to work particularly hard on pronouns and teachers ditto.

I’ve got it
English uses ‘there is’ for non pronouns, so 'There is an apple", but not for pronouns where we say “He has an apple”, but when we wish to emphasis existence, we can use “There is his apple”
And I thought Welsh was complicated!

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Careful with your “hafal” and “afal” - ei h(noun) is feminine.
Ei henw hi - her name
Ei enw o - his name

Mae afal ar y bwrdd - an apple is on the table.
Mae ei afal ar y bwrdd - his apple is on the table
Dyna afal ar y bwrdd - there it is, an apple on the table
Mae 'na afal ar y bwrdd - there is an apple on the table

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For what it’s worth, I agree with you in that I would naturally say either:
He has an apple, (there) on the table;
His apple is there, on the table;
or for emphasis
There is his apple, on the table.

Never heard of this rule. Is the tutor a native English speaker?

Sounds like they are applying a (possibly non-existent) “rule” mechanically.

It depends on the context and intended meaning, but since there is at least one situation (i.e. for emphasis, showing where it is) the blanket “rule” saying that you can’t have a pronoun after “there is” is simply wrong. (IMO :slight_smile: ).


One confusing thing is that “there is” is usually not meant literally but sometimes is.

I think the literal meaning (“in that place is” as in “Over there is his apple, on the table”) is fine.

But the idiom “there is/there are” for existence sounds wrong to me when introducing something definite – and possessed items are definite more or less by definition.

“In this room there are many books.” Indefinite, existence. Fine.
“In this room there are the books.” Definite - sounds odd to me.

Perhaps because asserting the existence of something is generally something for things new to the conversation. If you have previously spoken about something you don’t need to assert that they exist because you know they do by virtue of having been in the conversation. You might wish to say where those things exist/are located, but asserting the pure existence seems odd to me.

“There is his book” is fine in Turkish (where it’s used to mean “he has a book”); I think Hungarian does the same thing, more or less.

But in English (and German), using “there is” / es gibt for anything definite sounds odd to me.

“There is his apple on the table” doesn’t sound right to me out of context. However, I’ve no idea about a rule for it, and I’m sure I’d probably say it.

I think it needs a comma to read properly “there is his apple, on the table”. Allows the emphasis. It also sounds less wrong as “there’s his apple” which implies it’s more spoken.

That’s just to my ear and my overthinking :smile:

You can set up a situation where, “There’s his apple, on the table,” is perfectly correct English. (E.g. In response to a child saying, "He’s lost his apple!), but without the comma, it’s not right. Similarly, “In this room there are the books that were left to the library by a rich benefactor,” is a little cumbersome but definitely something a native speaker might say. But without the extra clause, it’s not correct.

I find it fascinating that native speakers do this kind of thing naturally, but then find it impossible to explain why.


And then we try and say these things in Welsh!
I use ‘there is’ to emphasise existence rather than merely state it. The example sentence that was used originally , I only later got onto apples, may not make sense to learners:
“Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?”
“There is the school’s sport event” in the sense of ‘have you forgotten about the school event’, it’s not a common form but the question was that it broke grammar rules.


It does show how worthwhile it is to give up bothering about the fine details, doesn’t it?.. :wink:


Well, I can speak for English:
If we want to indicate locality, most likely in answer to the question ‘Where is his apple?, we say ‘There is his apple on the table’, with an emphasis on the ‘there’ and, optionally, a comma after apple.
We would surely never say ‘There is his apple on the table’ simply to indicate existence. Instead, we would say ‘There is an apple of his on the table’.
So, is this distinction observed in Welsh and if so, how?

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Just to indicate existence, I would say “His apple is on the table.”

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Did anyone hear Geth or Gar tonight reading (in English) the term: combative attitude? Whichever one he was, let’s say G, had to read it at least twice, I imagine to check that it shouldn’t have been “combatative”.

TBH, I thought the same myself and had to google it before posting this. It seems to go with competitive.

I think it’s one of those things that’s easily disrupted by analogies – I’m pretty sure combatative doesn’t actually exist – but then the American-sounding (to my ears) orient turns out to be the original form of that verb, and the more British (and so much better-sounding – to my ears!) orientate is a later analogical remodeling.


Ah, hang on… It might be because he was placing the stress on the second syllable “-bat-”. It just didn’t seem to flow.

Eww… Sorry, orientate is one of my pet peeves! (Of course, I have lot of them, old curmudgeon that I am!)

But after all, the root for combative is just “combat” but, while the ultimate root for competitive might be compete it actually springs more readily from competition, a form that the word combat doesn’t have.

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Orient really, really grates on me - but I have to grit my teeth & accept it, because I know it’s actually “more correct” (for certain values of “correct”!) than the version I prefer :slight_smile:

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Surely the orient is the ‘mysterious’ east? Where the Orient Express ends up!


Indeed it is and early Christians used to pray facing east and churches were built so that the congregation could face towards the east. So churches are “oriented”.