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Difference between are or is

DALL·E 2024 02 09 03.13.46 A classroom setting with a chalkboard showing examples of are and is being used in sentences with a teacher pointing to the board and students ra

In the exploration of English grammar, are and is stand as pivotal elements, each serving a unique role within the structure of sentences. These terms are not interchangeable but are bound by the rules of subject-verb agreement, which dictate their correct usage based on the number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third) of the subject. Understanding the distinction between are and is is fundamental for constructing grammatically correct sentences, thereby enhancing clarity and coherence in communication.

Quick Facts Table

Part of SpeechVerbVerb
UsagePlural subjectsSingular subjects
Example SentenceThey are happy.He is happy.
ConjugationPresent tense, plural form of “to be”Present tense, singular form of “to be”
Common inConversations, plural descriptionsConversations, singular descriptions

Difference Between “Are” OR “Is

Definition of Are

Are is the plural form of the verb "to be" in the present tense. It is used with plural subjects, expressing a state of being or action that pertains to more than one person or thing. For example, "The books are on the table" indicates that multiple books are present.

Definition of Is

Is, conversely, is the singular form of the verb "to be" in the present tense. It aligns with singular subjects, signifying a state of being or action related to a single entity. An example would be, "The book is on the table," denoting the presence of only one book.

Origin of Are

Are originates from Old English earon, which is the plural form of the verb. Its usage has been consistent over centuries, adapting to modern English with minimal changes in form but retaining its plural application.

Origin of Is

Is comes from Old English is, a derivative of the Proto-Germanic isti, a form of the verb “to be.” Like are, its usage and form have been relatively stable throughout the evolution of the English language, consistently signifying singularity.


  • Are: /ɑːr/
  • Is: /ɪz/

Comparing Are and Is

When comparing are and is, the primary distinction lies in their application with respect to number. Are is used with plural nouns and pronouns, indicating multiple entities, while is is used with singular nouns and pronouns, denoting a single entity. This fundamental difference is crucial for maintaining subject-verb agreement in sentences.

Comparison Table

Subject NumberPluralSingular
Example Usage“The students are studying.”“The student is studying.”
FunctionExpresses actions/states of multiple entitiesExpresses actions/states of a single entity
Agreement ContextUsed with “you,” “we,” and plural nounsUsed with “he,” “she,” “it,” and singular nouns

Usage in Sentences with Explanations

Use of Are in Sentences

  1. “We are going to the park.”
    • Explanation: Are is used with the plural subject “we,” indicating an action involving more than one person.
  2. “The cats are sleeping.”
    • Explanation: Describes the state of multiple cats, employing are for a plural noun.
  3. “You are welcome.”
    • Explanation: Although “you” can refer to one or more individuals, are is the correct form in both cases.
  4. “The flowers are blooming.”
    • Explanation: Are indicates the ongoing action of multiple flowers blooming.
  5. “They are happy.”
    • Explanation: Refers to a state of being for multiple individuals, necessitating the use of are.

Use of Is in Sentences

  1. “The sun is shining.”
    • Explanation: Is is used with the singular noun “sun,” indicating a single entity performing an action.
  2. “He is reading a book.”
    • Explanation: Describes the action of a single person, employing is for a singular subject.
  3. “This is beautiful.”
    • Explanation: Is refers to a singular object or situation, indicating a state of being.
  4. “The cake is delicious.”
    • Explanation: Uses is to describe the state of a single item, the cake.
  5. “It is raining.”
    • Explanation: Is describes the condition or action of an impersonal subject “it,” signifying a singular event.


The differentiation between are and is is quintessential for proper English grammar, directly impacting the accuracy of verbal and written communication. By understanding and applying the rules of subject-verb agreement, speakers and writers can ensure clarity and coherence in their expressions, reflecting a proficient command of the English language.

Commonly Asked Questions

  • When should I use “are” instead of “is”?
    • Use are with plural subjects and the pronouns “you,” “we,” and “they.”
  • Can “you are” be used for a single person?
    • Yes, you are is correct for both singular and plural references in modern English.
  • Is “there are” correct when referring to one item?
    • No, use there is for singular items and there are for multiple items.
  • How can I remember when to use “are” or “is”?
    • Associate are with multiples and is with singulars, reflecting their respective uses with plural and singular subjects.
Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith, writer at, blends creativity with insight, exploring technology, culture, and psychology. With a background in English Literature, she crafts engaging stories inspired by nature and urban life. Outside writing, she enjoys exploring and continuous learning.View Author posts

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