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"There to be" in relative clauses Options
Mikhail
Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2017 3:02:37 AM
Rank: Member

Joined: 10/10/2012
Posts: 102
Neurons: 486
Hello everybody!

Recently, while speaking, I stumbled over a relative clause in which I was going to use 'there to be' construction to predicate existence (or rather non-existence) and was confused with the syntax of such a clause.

I was going to sort of combine two sentences similar to these

You are talking about things. There aren't such things.

I realised I wasn't sure what the result would be. I have now different options:

1) You are talking about things there aren't.
2) You are talking about things that aren't there.
3) You are talking about things that aren't.

Please, comment on your opinion about those three. Are any of them utterly wrong? Are there stylistic differences? Which one would you personally prefer?



I did a little research, so to speak, and found different syntactic structures; most of the examples are, however, affirmative, so I'm not quite sure that "there is" behaves the same way in negative clauses. I came up with the three examples above after I had seen the things below.

A) Galadriel: Will you look inyo the mirror? Frodo: What will I see? Galadriel: Even the wisest cannot tell, for the mirror shows many things: things that were, things that are, and some things that have not yet come to pass.

B) Daniel Kahnemann talks about a phenomenon that he calls "What you see is all there is".

C) I saw lots of such results in Google: Seeing and hearing things that aren't there.

P.S. I realize that technically speaking some of the clauses considered are not "there to be" clauses, but as they predicate existence, have the verb "to be" in them and are equivalent in function, I decided to include them.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2017 3:44:46 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 25,216
Neurons: 131,240
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
This is an interesting question.
I think that you will find that most "native speakers" usually avoid the simple "which there aren't (full stop)" in the predicate by using a synonym like "which don't exist", "which have no real existence".

It is fairly common to use "which/that aren't + adverb" ('which aren't around', 'which aren't there', 'which aren't in the room') particularly "there".

The simple phrase (without adverb) is used normally to negate the opposite affirmative:
"We were talking about things which are useful, you're taking about things which aren't." (the word "useful" is omitted)

Of your original three choices, none of them violate any obvious 'grammar rules'.
You are talking about things there aren't. This one just doesn't sound right - but I think it's just "my style".
You are talking about things that aren't there. This one sounds fine.
You are talking about things that aren't. This sounds OK as informal conversational English, but I wouldn't use it in a formal speech, or in writing - unless I used it in a speech deliberately to get the audience's attention and "make a point". I would definitely always stress the last word.

**********
In the positive, "which/that there are" is used occasionally, but I think you will find that much more common is the simpler "which/that are".

"We are talking about things which are - not impossibilities."

"which/that there are" (including just "there are" with the omitted relative pronoun) is quite often used in the longer phrases like "all the ____ (that) there are", "most of the ____ (that) there are" and the similar phrases for uncountable nouns "all the ____ (that) there is, "most of the _____ (that) there is" - which do not work in the negative.

"Don't waste it - that's all the water there is."
"The mower cut most of the long grass there was, I just need to trim the edges."




Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
thar
Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2017 3:58:29 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
Posts: 14,911
Neurons: 59,078
Mikhail wrote:
Hello everybody!

Recently, while speaking, I stumbled over a relative clause in which I was going to use 'there to be' construction to predicate existence (or rather non-existence) and was confused with the syntax of such a clause.

I was going to sort of combine two sentences similar to these

You are talking about things. There aren't such things.

I realised I wasn't sure what the result would be. I have now different options:

1) You are talking about things there aren't.
No. Just wrong.


2) You are talking about things that aren't there.

This is location. Not in the place you indicate.
You see ghosts - you see things that aren't there.



3) You are talking about things that aren't.
No, just wrong.


The existential 'there is/there are' can only be the main statement.

Compare
There are aliens
That means aliens exist.
The subject is 'there is/there are'. It is a specialised, unique, existential subject.

There are aliens
There aren't any aliens.
I don't know whether there are aliens or not.

But you can't use it in a relative clause.


Compare that with
There is the car.
The car is there.
That is location. Any normal subject + 'is there' signifies location.

You are trying to make the existential meaning. But in a relative clause you have a normal subject - things which.


Once you have a normal subject, you need to use a normal subject + verb structure.


Location/reality
You are having hallucinations. You are talking about things which aren't there.

Existence
You are talking about things which don't exist.

Please, comment on your opinion about those three. Are any of them utterly wrong? Are there stylistic differences? Which one would you personally prefer?



I did a little research, so to speak, and found different syntactic structures; most of the examples are, however, affirmative, so I'm not quite sure that "there is" behaves the same way in negative clauses. I came up with the three examples above after I had seen the things below.

A) Galadriel: Will you look inyo the mirror? Frodo: What will I see? Galadriel: Even the wisest cannot tell, for the mirror shows many things: things that were, things that are, and some things that have not yet come to pass.

That is a different, literary use. You would never say it. It is using 'to be' as an intransitive verb, not a linking one. Meaning 'to exist'.
I want to take some time off work to relax and simply 'be'.

What is, is.
In time, they are things which were, things which are, things which will be.
If you look for this meaning of 'to be' meaning 'to exist, or to happens' you will only ever see them in literary style.
This is Tolkien. He is trying to sound portentous, 'otherworldly'.

Eg
Que sera, sera - what will be, will be.
Cogito ergo sum - I think therefore I am.

B) Daniel Kahnemann talks about a phenomenon that he calls "What you see is all there is".
Again, trying to form a 'saying'. Literary form.
What you see is what you get.
But it is a noun phrase with the object (or compliment) already stated:

You get what you see. What you see is what you get.
There is what you see. What you see is all there is.



C) I saw lots of such results in Google: Seeing and hearing things that aren't there.


Yes, it can be negative - there isn't any milk.

But because of the existential meaning of the phrase, the non-existence of something is the same as the existence of none of it.
There's no milk.

For stylistic reasons, and because "isn't" and "aren't" are such weak ways of expressing a negative, the 'no' option is often preferred.
For example, compare the stress to express a negative:
Compare
There isn't any way I am doing that.
With
There is no way I am doing that.

Which feels stronger?



P.S. I realize that technically speaking some of the clauses considered are not "there to be" clauses, but as they predicate existence, have the verb "to be" in them and are equivalent in function, I decided to include them.



Edit
Just read drago's, and don't disagree (of course!)
Except I am less forgiving - where he says 'unlikely', I say 'wrong'. I agree with his final scenario which is less literary - in my scenario that would become 'that is all the milk there is'. But I wouldn't even try to work out the grammatical breakdown.
But I think different views are good, at your level. Whistle


Mikhail
Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 1:36:12 PM
Rank: Member

Joined: 10/10/2012
Posts: 102
Neurons: 486
Thank you, thar and Drsg0nspeaker, for your replies! There's a lot to discuss - so much I don't even know what to begin with))

1)
Quote:
...most "native speakers" usually avoid the simple "which there aren't (full stop)" in the predicate by using a synonym like "which don't exist", "which have no real existence".


Yes, that's an easy option, but I wonder if it would make the utterance sound rather formal?

2) What interests me the most is that "there to be" doesn't work equally well in all possible constructions, and its behaviour in relative clauses demonstrates just a little portion of its peculiarities, I think.

Locative inversion, for instance, is often found in fiction, whereas most of those ideas, I think, would be expressed by means of "there to be" in conversational English. Taking into account that langage phenomena evolve gradually and don't show symmetry, so to speak, in how they behave in different contexts, either grammatical or stylistic, such a situation is no surprise, of course. It resembles the situation with "no" versus "not" in negative expressions: though "not" is universal, "no" is still found more often in "have" and "there to be" sentences.

Phew... How hard it is to put all the arguments togethet. I'll just post it like it is in order to keep the conversation going and not let it cease
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 2:49:22 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 25,216
Neurons: 131,240
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
I don't think I'm more 'forgiving' than thar - but maybe I've read more philosophy tomes than he has.

The essential beingness of a thing is reflected in the attitude of the beholder in such a way that the reflection, itself, changes the is-ness of the original.
All things are fundamentally changed by being observed.
If you look for things which produce NO attitude and so do not change, they aren't.
No such thing exists.

(This is not a real philosophical discussion, but a collection of phrases - which I have heard - which I thought you'd like.)

Thar is right in putting into more detail what you have observed - ". . . language phenomena evolve gradually and don't show symmetry, so to speak, in how they behave in different contexts, either grammatical or stylistic . . ."
The different contexts in which the simple statement "which there aren't" can be used are literary and philosophical, when discussing the 'is-ness' of things.
(I doubt that you'll find that one in a dictionary, I think it's a coined term.)

***********
I do think that the "to be" in phrases like "all there is", "most of the ____ there is" or "all there are" is the "existential 'be'".

That's all the milk (that) there is.
That's all the milk which exists.
He ate all the pie there was - and still wanted more.
He ate all the pie which existed - and still wanted more.



Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
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