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The formal subject there


§ 45. Sentences with a notional subject introduced by there express the existence or coming into existence of a person or non-person denoted by the subject. Such sentences may be called existential sentences or sentences of presentation. They are employed where the subject presents some new idea or the most important piece of information.

The notional subject introduced by there is expressed:


1. By any noun or by a noun phrase denoting an inseparable unit or an indefinite amount of something.

There, was silence for a moment.

There was a needle and thread in her fingers.

There were a lot of people in the street.


As the notional subject usually introduces a new idea, the noun expressing it is generally used with the indefinite article.


2. By some noun-pronouns:


a) indefinite.

Is there anybody there?

There was something wrong about the whole situation.


b) negative.

There was nobody in.

There was nothing to do.


c) universal (only some of them).

There were all of them on the bank.

There were both of them present.


The pronouns of these three classes are the most frequent in existential sentences. The ones that follow are very seldom used:


d) detaching.

There was the other to be asked.


e) demonstrative.

There is this which is to be settled.


3. By a gerund or a gerundial phrase.

There was no talking that evening.

There’s no going against bad blood.


4. By a clause.


First, there is what we might call a pattern.


The predicate in such sentences is generally a simple verbal predicate expressed by the verbs to be, to appear, to live, to come, to go, or some other similar verbs.


At last far off there appeared a tiny spot.

Once upon a time there lived a king.

Then there came a lightning.


Occasionally the predicate may be a compound verbal modal predicate or a predicate of double orientation. In both cases their second parts are expressed by the verb to be, or one of the others mentioned above.


a) There must be something wrong with him.

There may come a time when you’ll regret this.


b) There seemed to be only two people in the room.

There did not appear to be anything of importance in what he said.

There are said to be those who are “unfit for living”.


Negative sentences with introductory there are formed in the usual way for the verbs which are their predicates, that is, by means of appropriate auxiliaries for all the verbs but to be. In the latter case two negative constructions are possible:


a) either with the negative pronoun no, as in:

There was no sign of him in the hall.

There is no knowing when he will come.


b) or with the negation not, often followed by the indefinite pronoun any, or without it, as in:

There weren’t (were not) any flowers on the balconies.

There isn’t a cloud in the sky.


The sentence is also negative if the subject itself is a negative pronoun:

There was nobody in.

There was nothing to say.



Date: 2015-01-12; view: 2609

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