I did a little surfing the other day on the Emmys site to see the results from the 62nd annual awards show. And, yes, I wanted to check out the gowns, the hair and the suits.
I watched a video of Jimmy Fallon, the host. In his short clip, he made a mistake I hear over and over from speakers.
Fallon was congratulating members of his show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, for an Emmy they received. Fallon said: “There was tears. There was sweat”. Grammatically the first sentence is wrong. The second sentence is correct.
Fallon should have said, “There were tears.” Tears is a plural noun so the verb needs to agree with it. You don’t say “We was going to the Emmys.” You say “We were going to the Emmys.”
But here’s an interesting sidebar: according to the grammar police at the British Council’s Learn English Central, there is one exception to this rule. In informal speech, they say, you can use “There’s” with plural nouns. The example they give is “There’s some people coming in the front gate.”
By the way, the Podium office is divided on this one. What do you think? Should we use “There’s” + a plural noun?
When we hear a grammatically incorrect phrase, it registers as being not quite right. We may not know why, but we feel something is a bit off.
That detracts from what you’re saying. It’s worse if your audience is grammatically savvy. It could put them off your speech completely. You wind up looking unpolished.
So saying “There was tears” instead of “There were tears” may be just a little detail – but if you want to be polished, remember the old saying “The devil is in the details.”
by Halina St James
Neil Everton has distilled a lifetime’s experience with some of the world’s top news organizations into his Media Mastery training aids for anyone worried about talking to reporters. The video, books, e-books and workbooks are available in the Podium Coaching online store.