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The question goes like this,
___ Of large mammals once dominated the North American prairies the American bison and the pronghorn antelope.
(A) There are two species
(B) Two species

So, which one is correct? I see 'of large mamals' can also be put in the front of entire sentence, but I still have no clue which one is better.

And, is there a colon (:) between "...prairies" and "the American..."? Confusing!!!
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B is correct.

'Two species... dominated'
'There are two species... that dominated'

Yes, a colon or an m-dash is needed after 'prairies'; a comma would suffice, but would not be as effective.
But Mr. Micawber, I was told that the relative pronoun could be omitted, if in the sentence which was leaded by "there be". For example,
"There is an old man (who ) wants to see you."

Is it right?
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You certainly cannot omit the 'who' in your sample, Jeff: 'There is an old man who wants to see you' needs its 'who'.

Object relatives can usually be dropped: 'There is an old man (who/m) I wish to see'.
In continuous forms, the relative + 'be' can be omitted: 'There is an old man (who is) sitting on a stump'.

This is just off the top of my head, so if you can find an example of the omission of the subject relative pronoun, please show me.
Mr. Micawber,

It may be just off the top of your head, but you are absolutely correct. Omitting the relative pronoun is OK EXCEPT when it's the subject of its clause.

CJ
Thank you, moderators.
Honestly, I do know the two rules,
"1, Object relatives can usually be dropped;
2, In continuous forms, the relative + 'be' can be omitted. "

But I was kinda misled by some grammar-teaching article. You know, I tried to google something about attributive clause before and found one, and bookmarked it. You may think I made up the sentence,
"There is an old man (who) wants to see you."
Actually, I quoted it from that article. And I though this one was special, 'cause it's led by 'there be'.

But it's okey now. I believe you two. Anyway, there's no article that is flawless. Emotion: wink

Thank you again.

Jeffu.
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Surprisingly, after saying it over to myself a few times, "There's an old man wants to see you" does seem like something I have heard. It may be some sort of localism - dialectical, if you will. It has a distinct British flavor to me; don't ask me why. Regardless of where it's from or who says it, I would judge it nonstandard.
I sympathize with Jeff.

When I was learning English-that's decades ago-I read a grammar book delineating the same rule as Jeff brought up. As years passed, I realized that's a rather weird rule. I checked it with native speakers, they said in unison to the effect that I should forget the rule.
Ever since I haven't applied it. I don't know whether it is the rule still in effect in British English or in some dialects as CJ has pointed out. I believe that in American English, it's certainly an outdated rule.

As far as I understand, there is only one exceptional case where nominative relative pronouns (who/which/that) alone may be omitted: when there is an inserted clause within the relative clause. This was already discussed in this forum.

ex) Periodically we mail product and service information (which) [we feel] would interest you.
However, if you prefer not to receive such mail or phone calls, please let us know.
I concur with Mr M.

Have you tried rewording the sentence, like this?

Passive
The North American prairies were once dominated by two species of mammals: the American bison and the pronghorn antelope.

Active
Two species once dominated . . .

Passive
*The North American prairies were once dominated by there are two species of mammals: the American bison and the pronghorn antelope.

Active
*There are two species once dominated. . .

Repair 1: There are two species and they once dominated. . .

'they' is the subject of the verb 'dominated'.

Repair 2: There are two species that once dominated . . .

'that' is the subject of 'dominated'. It refers back to 'two species'.

Please note, with existential 'There are/is" sentences, 'There' is not the true, or logical subject. The logical subject comes after the verb. In our example, 'two species' is the subject, and the reason that B) is the correct choice.
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