Are vs. Is

Are vs. Is
  • Use are with you.
  • Use are with plural subjects.
  • Use is with singular subjects, except for I.

English speakers probably use the verb to be and all its forms hundreds of times in a day. However, even native speakers make errors from time to time. Learn the difference between is and are so you never make a mistake with these essential verbs.

How to Conjugate To Be

I am
You are
He/She/It is
We are
You (all) are
They are

The Difference Between Is and Are

The subject of your sentence determines whether you use “is” or “are.” Let’s start with the easiest part. The plural subject pronouns are we, you (plural), and they. For plural subjects, use are. He, she, and it are singular, so pair is with them. The difficult one is the singular pronoun you. Use are with this pronoun. Once you remember which pronoun goes with which verb, you can use the verbs with any subject.

When you are learning something, it often helps to see examples. Here are some sentences with pronouns and other nouns paired with is and are. Just for fun, a few of them are from famous books!

How to Use Is

The girl is listening to music.

Viktor Petrenko is a famous ice skater.

Delaware’s state flower is the peach blossom.

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam today.
—Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

But since I have a poet’s weakness for symbols, I am using this character also as a symbol; he is the long-delayed but always expected something that we live for . . .
—Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

How to Use Are

You are the first one to arrive.

We are going to the market to buy something for dinner.

Patricia, Stacey, and I are best friends, and we always will be!

In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.
—Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Proverbs are the palm oil on which words are eaten.
—Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Why People Confuse Is and Are

Even native English speakers confuse is and are from time to time. They probably know instinctively which form to use. However, most writers edit their text during the writing process. They also go back and make changes after they have finished a draft. In an article titled “True Writing Is Rewriting,” Beth Shopes claimed that “some [writers] never rewrite, but those who manage to produce something publishable after a single, unrevised draft can probably be squeezed in among the dancing angels on the head of that proverbial pin.” When writers change things, they sometimes forget to adjust the rest of the sentence. As a result, subject-verb agreement errors are relatively common. To avoid this, always read the entire sentence again, even if you only changed one part of it.

Whether you learned English or you are a native speaker, you need to make sure you’re using is and are properly. Pay close attention to your subject. If it’s plural, use are. If it’s not I or you, but it’s singular, use is. With practice, you can use it hundreds of times a day . . . with no mistakes!

Weekly Grammar Tips
Weekly Grammar Tips
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