When to Use Is or Are

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: How & When to Use However in a Sentence

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 The Word 'Be'
  • 1:09 Is
  • 2:19 Are
  • 3:01 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

'Is' and 'are,' which are both forms of the verb 'be,' can be quite challenging to use correctly. This lesson will explain how 'is' and 'are' function as forms of 'be' and how to properly use them.

The Word ''Be''

What is the meaning of ''is''? What are we supposed to do with ''are''? We use these two words in speech and writing every day, but if you stop and think about it, they can be really confusing. Why do we say ''John is tired'' but then say ''John and Jack are tired''? Well, let's find out.

To understand ''is'' and ''are'', we have to start with the word ''be''. Despite being small, ''be'' is probably one of the most confusing words in the English language. To start with, it's a verb, or action word, but it doesn't refer to any kind of actual action like ''run'' and ''jump'' do. Instead, ''be'' is a verb we use to talk about nouns (people, places, and things) or pronouns, which are the words that take the place of nouns, like ''I'', ''you'', and ''he/she''. We use the word ''be'' to indicate the identity, qualities, and condition of a person, place, or thing.

And if that wasn't confusing enough, ''be'' is an unusual verb in that it takes many different forms, which have little to do with each other. ''Is'' and ''are'' are two of those forms. Both are used when the verb is in the present tense, or happening right now.

Is

So when do we use ''is'' instead of ''are''? Well first, as we have already established, the verb needs to be in the present tense. Then, we need to look at the noun or pronoun the verb is attached to, particularly its number and person.

Number describes if the verb is singular, meaning there is only one person, place, or thing, or plural, meaning there is more than one. Person refers to the noun's relationship to the person speaking or writing. When the noun is the speaker (''I''), that is first-person. When it's the person being spoken to (''you''), that is second-person. If it is anyone else (''he, she, it''), that is third-person.

The word ''is'' is used for third-person singular; that means the noun or pronoun is neither the speaker nor the person being spoken to and there is only one of them, as in these examples:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support