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There is more than one user

OK, this may seem basic, but I’m writing a manual and I need to know “there is more than one user” or “there are more than one user”, and does that change if the sentence is preceded with the word ‘if’. As in:

“If there is more than one user, you may wish to have them log in with a separate session.”

  • May 9, 2006
  • Posted by brad
  • Filed in Grammar

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Or, "There are more users..."

porsche June 7, 2006 @ 12:29PM

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To clarify the reasoning, "than one" is a prepositional phrase. Words in prepositional phrases do not count toward plurality, so the question comes down to "there is (a) user" vs "there are (a user)". I think you know which is correct.

illuminatiscott June 15, 2006 @ 9:13AM

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I always thought that a sentence using "if" in a manner that suggests hypothetical thinking would entail using the plural form of the verb.

Is this not correct?

jcferrero03 August 11, 2008 @ 4:00PM

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Actually, Super Student, in spite of your sarcasm, Ralph is right, at least, mostly; although, he's referring not to the plural, but to the subjunctive tense, which in the past tense looks the same as the plural.

I think, Mr Student, that you might be in need of further study yourself. "If there was a flying pig..." is incorrect and should be "If there were a flying pig...", especially with the doubt you are implying, exactly as Ralph proposed.

As for how this affects the original question, "If there is more than one user..." is fine without the subjunctive. The indicative form, not the subjunctive, may be used when the outcome may not be in doubt. Clearly there are sometimes situations with more than one user, so the subjunctive isn't needed here.

While we're at it, the present subjunctive is "be" not the seemingly plural "were". If the existence of more than one user were unlikely and you really wanted to use the present tense, then I suppose you should write: "If there be more than one user..." Gee, doesn't that sound awkward.

Oh, and last, the subjunctive is gradually fading from use. As much as it grates on my nerves, I hear "if I was you..." more and more frequently. Eventually it will be come standard. Some say it already is.

porsche August 12, 2008 @ 4:27PM

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If there was a person who thought that, they'd think pigs could fly.

This sentence is considered completely standard (and the "were" variant somewhat lower-class) in the UK. In the US there is a lot of debate about it, but there are educated people who say both.

jah259 June 9, 2010 @ 5:19PM

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