Many people accidentally use “is there any” when they should be using “are there any,” and vice versa.
Learning when to use each phrase correctly will make your writing sound clearer, more readable, and more professional.
So when do you use each construction? It depends on the noun you’re talking about in the sentence.
If it’s a plural noun, you should use the verb are, and if it’s a singular or uncountable noun, you should use the verb is.
This complete guide covers the difference between “is there any” and “are there any” with tips to help you remember when to use each sentence construction.
Difference Between Is There Any and Are There Any
The key difference between “is there any” and “are there any” boils down to the difference between is and are.
We use is when we’re talking about a singular person or thing.
For example, you might say “There is an Italian restaurant nearby,” because “Italian restaurant” is a singular noun.
We use are when we’re talking about multiple people or things.
To return to our earlier example, you would say “There are three Italian restaurants nearby,” because there are multiple locations.
The same rule holds true when you’re asking a question. If the noun is plural, use “Are there any.” If the noun is singular, use “Is there any.”
How to Use Is There Any Correctly
We use the sentence construction “Is there any…?” to ask if something exists, or if there is something in a specific place.
Whenever you’re talking about a singular countable noun, you should use “Is there any” instead of “Are there any.”
For example, you would say “Is there any chance we can get back together?” because the noun, “chance,” is singular and quantifiable.
You should also use “Is there any” if you’re talking about an uncountable noun, which is something that doesn’t have a clearly defined quantity.
Common examples of uncountable nouns include words such as love, bread, and butter.
You wouldn’t say “three breads,” for example. If you wanted to describe a quantity of bread, you would use specific units such as slices or loaves, or you might just say “a lot of bread” or “ a little bit of bread.”
Countable nouns, on the other hand, are nouns you can quantify numerically without units, such as people, books, and apples. It would make sense to say "I have three apples."
A key difference between countable and uncountable nouns is that uncountable nouns are considered singular, even when you’re talking about large quantities of these things.
That's why you should also use “Is there any” with uncountable nouns, unless you specify a unit.
For example, you would ask “Is there any butter in the fridge?” because “butter” is uncountable.
It would be grammatically incorrect to answer with a number, such as “Yes, there are two butters in the fridge.”
Instead, you would simply answer “Yes, there is some butter in the fridge.” or “No, there is no butter in the fridge.”
How to Use Are There Any Correctly
We use the sentence construction “Are there any…?” to ask if there are multiple people or things in a specific place.
You should use “Are there any” whenever you’re talking about a plural countable noun.
For example, you would say “Are there any croissants left at the bakery?” because “croissants” is a plural countable noun.
You can answer this question with a number, such as “Yes, there are three croissants left.” or “Yes, there are twenty croissants left.”
Similarly, you might say “Are there any other problems I can help you with today?” because “problems” is both plural and countable.
Again, you can answer with a number, such as “Yes, I have five more problems to ask you about.”
You can also respond with a generic quantity, such as “Yes, I have some more problems to ask you about” or “Yes, I have lots of problems to ask you about.”
The only time you should use "Are there any" with an uncountable noun is if you specify the unit.
For example, you would say "Are there any loaves of bread in the pantry?," even though "bread" is an uncountable noun, because you're asking about the countable noun loaves.
Examples of Is There Any or Are There Any
Let’s look at some examples of each of these sentence constructions from popular writings.
Examples of Is There Any Used Correctly
Here are some examples of “Is there any” from successful English books used with singular countable or uncountable nouns.
“Is there any finer phrase in the English language than Midsummer Day?”—Deanna Raybourn, Midsummer Night
“Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?”—Ian McEwan, Atonement
“Is there any phrase more ominous than ‘you need to see exactly what you've done’?”—Stephen King, 11/22/63
“Is there any sort of situation where you can say with certainty that a single person is responsible for what happens? Everything in life is dependent on so many different factors that interact in so many different ways.”—M.T. Edvardsson, A Nearly Normal Family
“Is there any other way to be? I mean, this is it. This is my body, my soul; I gotta live with it. I'd better get comfortable. I plan on taking it for a long ride.”—Cecil Castellucci, Boy Proof
“Is there any person in the world who does not dream? Who does not contain within them worlds unimagined?”—Neil Gaiman, Worlds’ End
Examples of Are There Any Used Correctly
Here are some examples of “are there any” used with plural nouns.
“Are there any two words in all of the English language more closely twinned than courage and cowardice? I do not think there is a man alive who will not yearn to possess the former and dread to be accused of the latter.”—Geraldine Brooks, March
“Are there any rules when it comes to love? There is just one: Let it change you. Let it leave you better than you were before.”—Bianca Sparacino, The Strength in Our Scars
“Are there any questions you don’t want to know the answer to?”—Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince
“Are there any leading men in your life?”—Catherine Lowell, The Madwoman Upstairs
“Are there any capitalist cats?”—Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
“Are there any particular majors you’re interested in?”—Emma Mills, First & Then
How About If There Is Any or If There Are Any?
The same general principles apply to the phrases “If there is any” vs “If there are any.”
Once again, you should use is with singular countable or uncountable nouns, and are with plural countable nouns.
Examples of If There Is Any
Here are some examples of “If there is any” from English books.
“If there is any possible consolation in the tragedy of losing someone we love very much, it's the necessary hope that perhaps it was for the best.”—Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello
“If there is any intelligence guiding this universe, philosophy wishes to know and understand it and reverently work with it; if there is none, philosophy wishes to know that also, and face it without fear.”—Will Durant, The Pleasures of Philosophy
“If there is any society among robbers and murderers, they must at least…abstain from robbing and murdering one another.”—Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments
“If there is any good in life, in history, in my own past, I invoke it now. I invoke it with all the passion with which I have lived.”—Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian
Examples of If There Are Any
Here are some examples of “If there are any” used in a sentence.
“If there are any curses left in baseball, they are all on the north side of Chicago.”—Tucker Elliot, Boston Red Sox
“I’m not even sure if there are any windows in this particular house.”—Richard Yates, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness
“Even rudimentary pidgin codes that serve as linguae francae turn almost immediately into creole languages of great complexity if there are any children around learning those codes as native languages.”—Gilles Fauconnier, The Way We think
“If there are any limits to what can be done, the limit is right here (in your head). You've got to get physically fit between your ears. Muscles don't know anything. They have to be thought.”—Noah Hawley, Before the Fall
Conclusion on Is There Any or Are There Any
When in doubt whether you should use “is there any or “are there any,” try answering the question you’re asking.
If you would answer the question with the word is, then you should use “Is there any.”
If you would answer the question with the word are, then you should use “Are there any.”