General Writing and Grammar Help/parsing


Dear Ted,

Would you please help me parse the following sentence:
“How many bicycles are there?”

I am wondering if “bicycles” is the subject of this sentence.

Thank you.  


Dear Rich:

“How many bicycles are there?”

I am wondering if “bicycles” is the subject of this sentence.

** You are correct.  If you make the sentence into a declaration instead of question, you will have "bicycles are how many."  The "throwaway" word is "there," called an expletive because it has no grammatical relationship to the rest of the sentence.  I always discourage writers from using such words as "there" and "it" as the subjects of sentences, because they are very weak.

Parsing --

bicycles = subject
are = verb
many = adjective
how = adverb, qualifying the adjective "many"

If you enter this sentence into the sentence parsing site I gave you, you will see that "there" is put on a separate line away from the main clause.


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Ted Nesbitt


I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.


I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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