The Ultimate Guide To Is VS. Are — Correct Usage

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When it comes to correctly using the words “is vs. are,” many people struggle. Knowing when to use each of these two words can be difficult for native English speakers and non-native speakers alike. This guide will provide an in-depth look at the correct usage of is vs. are so that you can confidently use them in your writing or speaking. We will cover definitions, examples, rules, exceptions, common mistakes and tips on how to remember the difference between is and are.

Is vs. Are—Correct Usage

Overview of Is vs. Are

A. Definition of Is and Are

The words “is” and “are” are both forms of the verb “to be.” They are used to describe existence, identity, location, possession or condition.

Is is a singular form of the verb “to be” that is used when you want to describe one person, place, thing or idea (e.g., John is tall).

Are is a plural form of the verb “to be” that is used when you want to describe multiple people, places, things or ideas (e.g., John and Jane are tall).

B. Examples of Is and Are

Here are some examples of how to correctly use is and are:


  • The cat is black.
  • My sister is a doctor.


  • The cats are cute.
  • My sisters are doctors.

Rules for Using Is and Are Correctly

Understanding the proper usage of is and are is essential in writing and speaking English correctly. Is, are used when referring to a singular subject, while are is used with plural subjects. When it comes to contractions, it’s important to remember that the apostrophe takes the place of the missing letter(s), not the entire word.

For example, “it’s” means “it is,” while “its” indicates possession. Additionally, when forming questions, the subject and verb are reversed, but the same rule for is and are still applied. By keeping these usage rules in mind, your communication will be clearer and more effective.

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Exceptions to the Rule for Using Is or Are Correctly

In English grammar, the usage of ‘is’ or ‘are’ depends on the subject’s quantity. For instance, ‘is’ is used for singular subjects, whereas ‘are’ is used for plural subjects. Nevertheless, there are specific exceptions to this rule. One exception is when the subject is a collective noun, such as staff, jury, team, or family. Even though these words represent a group of individuals, they are usually regarded as a single entity, so they use the singular verb form.

Another exception is when a subject is a group of nouns of different quantities, such as ‘a book, a pen, and a notebook.’ In this case, you have to decide whether the statement is about a collectively shared idea or things with separate identities. Thus, it would be either ‘the set was moved,’ or ‘the items were moved.’ In any case, the key to using ‘is’ or ‘are’ correctly is by understanding when it is appropriate to make an exception to the rule.

Common Mistakes with Is vs. Are Usage

The English language can be tricky, and one common struggle is knowing when to use “is” or “are.” Many people make the mistake of assuming that it should always follow the subject, but that’s not always the case. The key is understanding whether you’re dealing with a singular or plural subject.

For example, “is” is usually used with a singular subject, such as “He is going to the store,” while “are” is used for plural subjects, such as “They are going to the store.” Keep in mind that there are always exceptions to the rule, and some phrases can be a bit more nuanced. It’s important to take the time and pay attention to the usage to ensure your communication is clear and effective.

Tips for Remembering When to Use ‘Is’ or ‘Are’

Understanding when to use ‘is’ or ‘are’ can be a common challenge for many individuals when writing or speaking. A quick tip to remember is to consider whether the subject is singular or plural. For singular subjects, ‘is’ is the correct form, while for plural subjects, ‘are’ should be used.

Another helpful way to remember is to listen to how the sentence sounds when spoken aloud. Doing so can assist in identifying whether the sentence requires ‘is’ or ‘are’ based on how natural it sounds. By keeping these tips in mind, you can improve your use of ‘is’ and ‘are’ and enhance your communication skills.


Learning how to use ‘is’ and ‘are’ correctly is an essential part of English grammar. Understanding the rules, exceptions, common mistakes, and tips can assist in ensuring your communication is accurate. By taking the time to practice and master these concepts, you’ll be able to communicate confidently and effectively in both writing or speech. Try out our quiz/test at the end for extra practice and confidence before moving on! Good luck!


Q: What is the difference between ‘is’ and ‘are’?

A: Is and are are both forms of the verb “to be.” The main difference between them is that “is” is used when referring to a singular subject, while “are” is used when referring to a plural subject. For example, if you were talking about one person, you would use “is,” but if you were talking about multiple people, you would use “are.”

Q: How do I know which form of the verb to use?

A: Generally speaking, if what you are saying refers to only one person or thing, then use “is.” If what you are saying refers to more than one, then use “are.” However, there are some exceptions to this rule that you should be aware of. For example, collective nouns (such as team or family) can sometimes take either is or are depending on the context.

Q: What other tips should I keep in mind when using ‘is’ and ‘are’?

A: One important tip is to pay attention to auxiliary verbs, such as modal verbs like “can,” “must,” or “could.” With these types of sentences, the verb is always conjugated according to the subject that follows it. For example, if the subject is singular, then you would use “is” (“She can run quickly”), and if it is plural, then you would use “are” (“They must finish their work on time”). Additionally, remember to always consider whether your sentence has a compound subject or not. If it does, then you should use the verb that matches the closest subject (e.g., “My mom and dad are teachers at the same school.”)

Q: Is there a quiz or test I can take to make sure I understand this material?

A: Yes! At the end of this article we have included a quiz/test that you can take to make sure that you understand the correct usage of ‘is’ and ‘are.’ The quiz will include questions about definitions, examples, exceptions, common mistakes, and more. Good luck!

Q: Is there anything else I should know?

A: Yes! When in doubt, try using the singular form of “to be” (i.e., “is”) as a default option. This is usually a good general rule to follow when unsure how to conjugate a verb. Additionally, remember that context is key—always pay attention to what comes before and after your sentence when deciding which verb form to use. With practice and awareness of these rules and tips, you will be able to use “is” and “are” correctly in no time!

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