Irregular verbs are notoriously confusing in any language, and English has its fair share. To be is one of the most difficult ones, not least because it is so versatile.
In the present tense alone, to be becomes am, is, and are in various tenses. Am is only used in the singular first person. But, what about the other two? If the dilemma of are vs. is has weighed on your mind, continue reading for an explanation.
What is the Difference Between Is and Are?
In this article, I will compare is vs. are. I will use each verb in example sentences to demonstrate its proper use.
Plus, I will show you an easy way to remember when to use each of these tenses, so you will never have trouble choosing is or are again.
When to Use Is
What does is mean? Is is a form of the verb to be, which indicates a state of existence or functions as an auxiliary verb. Is is the third-person singular present tense of to be.
Here are some example sentences,
- Andy is a lying, backstabbing, two-faced, good-for-nothing jerk, and I refuse to invite him to the ice cream social.
- That car is a waste of your money; you should look for a newer one with fewer miles.
- Abigail is building a tiny house with her husband, Carl.
- Antoine Griezmann has insisted he is happy at Atletico Madrid following renewed reports linking him with a big money move to Manchester United. –International Business Times
For a further discussion of is as a verb, see here.
When to Use Are
What does are mean? Are is also a conjugated form of to be. Are is the first-person plural present, second-person singular and plural present, and third-person plural present tense of this verb. It also functions as an auxiliary verb.
The sentences below are examples of its use,
- Ten thousand lemmings are throwing themselves, headlong, into the sea.
- “You are such a magnificent beast,” Marjorie said to her horse.
- “You are the most talented players in the league,” the coach said. “So why did we drop a 3-1 lead in the championship series?”
- We are going to the sushi bar; are you coming?
- Then there’s a new crop of fashion biopics in the works, and they are doozies. –The New York Times
Trick to Remember the Difference
Are and is are both conjugations of the verb to be. Which one you use depends upon the subject associated with the verb.
In the first person, are is used for plural subjects, like we.
In the second person, choose are for both singular and plural subjects, like you.
If you are writing in the third person, use is for singular subjects, like she, it, and Eleanor Roosevelt. If your third-person subject is plural, like they, lemmings, or Senate Republicans, choose are.
This verb is one of the most difficult verbs to conjugate in English. However, the task is easier if you remember that is is only ever used with singular subjects in the third person. Since is and singular are both spelled with the letter S, you should find it easy to remember this rule.
Is it is or are? Both is and are form various tenses of the verb to be, which indicates existence or a state of being. They can both be used as auxiliary, or helping, verbs.
Is is the third person singular present indicative form of to be.
Are is the second person singular and plural and first and third person plural present indicative form of to be.
There is no easy rule for determining which conjugation to use for which tense of this irregular verb. However, if you remember that is only pairs with singular subjects in the third person, you can simplify the process.
If you need a refresher, be sure to check this article for additional guidance.