‘Be’ is a word that is used to denote the time and tense of a sentence. It has several forms that represent different times and situations. Some examples of the types of ‘be’ are is, am, are, was, were, been, being, etc.
Is and are two of the form of ‘be’. Both represent the present tense. A sentence containing ‘is’ and ‘are’ means that the action mentioned in the given sentence is happening or happens in the present time. It represents that the work is going on in the present and can be changed. ‘Is’ and ‘are’ are used to show some habits, some work going on, and something that was completed recently. For example, Sita is reading a book. Here, Sita is reading in the present time.
Is vs. Are
‘Is’ is the present tense, a singular form of the auxiliary verb ‘be’. It is used in the present tense to denote single subjects. ‘Is’ can be attached with the only third person, a singular number i.e., he, she, it, or any name. Rest subjects do not carry ‘is’ along with them. These are only one subject. But remember those words will take ‘is’ only in the present tense. The form of auxiliary verb changes with change in tenses.
‘Is’ can be used both as an auxiliary verb and the main verb. If the sentence contains any other verb than ‘Is’ then ‘Is’ works as an auxiliary verb. However, if the sentence doesn’t have any other verb than ‘is’, it is used as a main verb. A sentence cannot be written without a verb and is one of the most important verbs.
However, ‘are’ is a dynamic word. Though its origin is also from the be family, it is used in many forms. The ‘are’ represents the plural form. It means the count of subjects or objects is more than one. Though ‘are’ represents present tense and is used to show a continuation of work, its use is a little diversified. Let us try to understand it with the help of some examples.
Are is used along with the first-person plural number that is we. The word ‘we’ means a group of our people which is plural, and since it is talking about us, it is first person. For example, we are playing cricket.
The next ‘are’ carries singular and plural numbers, a second person that is you. ‘Are’ is used both with singular and plural numbers with you. ‘You’ denotes the person standing in front of another. It can be either alone or in a group. ‘Are’ goes for both of these. For example, you are playing cricket. This line might denote a whole team or an individual. It depends on the person’s clarification of how he has used it. The other use of ‘are’ is in the third person, a plural number that is they. ‘They’ is used to denote other people which are more than one in number. Also, if the name of more than two people is mentioned, then the word ‘are’ is used as the helping verb.
Both ‘are’ and ‘is’ are used in the present continuous. However, their style of work is different from each other. ‘Is’ is used for a singular person, while ‘are’ usually denotes a plural number.
Difference Between Is and Are (in Tabular Form)
Parameter of comparisons
Number of verbs
Singular helping verb
Plural helping verb
She, it, he, any name
They, we, you, more than one name
Represents only one subject
Represent more than one subject
Analogy of persons
First, second and third-person
Third-person, the singular number
First person-plural number, second person- singular and plural both, third person-plural number
What Do You Mean by Is?
‘Is’ is an auxiliary verb that denotes the time and number of the sentence. It represents the present time and the work going on in the present moment. It is used in the present continuous tense. ‘Is’ is a verb used to represent only third persons that are she, he, it, and any name. These all are singular subjects and carry only a singular verb with them.
Though ‘Is’ is an auxiliary verb, it can also be used in the form of the main verb. When the main verb is absent in the sentence then ‘is’ serves the purpose of it. Let us understand it with the help of an example “She is good”. In this line, there is no main verb. So, ‘Is’ serves the purpose of the main verb.
Uses of ‘Is’
Mainly, ‘is’ used only in the third person. It represents the action completed in the present time. A few examples that take ‘is’ with them are
- ‘Is’ is used with collective nouns
A collective noun is a kind of noun that represents a collection of something. The use of numbers depends on the type of sentence. If the sentence assumes the collection of the word as a whole, then it carries a singular verb with it.
For example, the army is moving toward the war.
Here the army represents the collection of soldiers who are going toward the war. Since they are collective, it takes a singular subject.
- ‘Is’ with words like a pair of, a number of
Though phrases like a number of, a pair of, a lot of, etc., represent more than two, they are plural. But when they are talked about the whole group collectively, it carries a singular verb. It might sometimes be confusing. However, it can be identified by looking if they are talking about individual beings or as a whole. If it takes the word as a whole, it will carry a singular verb.
For example, the school of fish is moving in the sea.
Here the school represents all fish at the same time. Hence, a singular subject i.e., ‘is’ is used.
- ‘Is’ with a non-countable noun
Non-countable nouns mean nouns that cannot be counted. For example, rice, sand, salt, water, etc. These nouns though multiple in number cannot be counted. So, they are taken as a whole and carry a singular verb.
For example, water is precious to our life.
Here the water cannot be counted, thus, it has carried a singular verb with it.
- ‘Is’ with There
‘There’ does not determine the use of singular and plural verbs. It is determined by the abbreviation carried after ‘there’.
For example, there is a cat.
Since there is only one cat. Hence, it is carrying a singular verb.
These are a few uses of ‘Is’ that create problems. They are contradicted by the use of ‘are’. They are separated by a little difference. And, the contradictions of these reactions are important to understand.
‘Is’ with passive voice
The use of ‘is’ and ‘are’ changes with a change in voice. In passive voice, ‘is’ is used after the object and the tense and the number are determined based on the object. In it, ‘is’ is used after the simple present and present continuous tense. Both represent the present tense. However, they represent a different state of the present time. As the active voice, ‘is’ is again used only with the third-person singular number.
What Do You Mean Are?
‘Are’ is an auxiliary verb that is used to denote the present tense and number. It represents the present continuous tense which means the action is going on in the present. It is a part of the present continuous tense. ‘Are’ is a plural verb, and is used with a plural noun only.
Unlike ‘is’, the uses of ‘are’ are diverse. It represents the first-person, second-person as well as third-person. These subjects are we, they, you, and more than one name. It is also used in the second-person singular number, along with you.
Like ‘is’, ‘Are’ is used as a main verb in the absence of any other verb. For example, ‘we are intelligent’. In this sentence, ‘are’ is the main verb, and intelligent is the object. ‘Are’ is used with a plural noun.
Apart from this, there are some places where ‘are’ is used but it does not follow the rules of standard grammar. These uses contradict the uses of ‘is’ as mentioned above.
Uses of ‘Are’
- ‘Are’ with a collective noun
Though collective noun represents one as a whole, when it comes to talking to individual units of the group, then a plural verb is used with it.
For example, the couples are fighting with each other.
Here, the word couple is a collective noun. But here the sentence represents individual units. They are fighting with each other. That means they are doing something against each other indicating themselves as individual units. So, here a plural verb is used.
- ‘Are’ with a pair of, a number of
Phrases like a pair of, a number of, a lot of, etc though look like a single unit. They are plural phrases. Hence, they carry plural verbs with them. But it should take the collection individually.
For example, a number of people are gathering around the podium of the chief minister.
A number of people represent a collection of people.
- ‘Are’ with there
Like ‘is’, there does not decide whether the sentence is singular or plural. If the sentence followed after there is a plural, then it will carry a plural verb with it.
For example, there are a number of students.
Since the number of students is plural in this sentence. The verb carried out by this sentence will also be plural. Thus, it carries ‘are’ with it.
- A non-countable does not carry ‘Are’ in any case.
So, this was about the uses of ‘is’ and ‘are’. Their use should be carefully checked in the above-mentioned conditions.
‘Are’ in the passive voice
‘are’ is used in the passive voice after the plural object. Like an active voice, it represents the present tense but this time, the simple as well as the continuous tense. Its form also changes with change in the voice. Now, it represents only the third-person plural number. The passive voice does not carry the first-person and second-person with it.
The Difference Between Is and Are (pointwise)
‘Is’ is used as a singular number which means it is a singular helping verb. It is used to denote a singular, third person. However, ‘are’ is an auxiliary verb that is used with more than one subject.
‘Is’ is used as a helping verb for the third person. The third person subjects are he, she, it, or any name. They all represent a singular number. However, ‘Are’ is used with more than one subject. It is used with we, you, they, and more than two names.
‘Is’ is a singular verb, so it is used with only singular subjects or objects. However, ‘are’ is a plural verb, so it is used with plural subjects only.
According to the ranking of the subjects, ‘is’ is used in only the third person. However, ‘are’ is used in the first, second, and third person.
Position, where ‘is’ is used, is the third person, singular number only. While ‘are’ is used in the first-person plural numbers, second-person singular and plural numbers, and third-person plural numbers.
An auxiliary verb is a kind of verb that is used after subjects to represent the tense and number of the subject. The auxiliary verb is ‘be’. Its form keeps on changing with the change in time and subjects. Two of the form of ‘be’ are ‘Is’ and ‘Are’.
‘Is’ and ‘Are’ are used to represent the present tense. They are continuous and denote the work given in the sentence is ongoing in the present time. Both are used with present continuous tense.
The main difference between ‘Is’ and ‘Are’ is that ‘Is’ is used to represent a singular number while ‘Are’ is used to represent a plural number. ‘Is’ is used with he, she, it, any name. However, ‘Are’ is used with we, you, they, and more than two names.