Hi Everyone,

I've just come across a group of verbs called - existing verbs.

I've never heard of such a category. When I google them, nothing much comes up.

Am I missing something here?


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Cup cake a group of verbs called - existing verbs

What? I've never heard of it. Do they mean "Verbs of Existence"? I guess that would be verbs that are synonyms for "exist".

The only one that comes to mind is "be". Some synonyms you can find in a thesaurus also include subsist, live, survive, and coexist, but those aren't very exact synonyms.


Cup cake

I've just come across a group of verbs called - existing verbs.

I've never heard of such a category. When I google them, nothing much comes up.

It's just a cockeyed way of referring to existential clauses, those whose subject is the existential pronoun "there" and whose verb is "be".

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Thanks, CJ. I'm not the only one who doesn't know this category. Here is a cut and paste off the Australian Department of Education website. This is where you would find the English language curriculum to teach at schools across the country.

Activity 5: existing verbs

Another type of verb is where there is no action or relationship being described, simply a state. These types of verbs are introduced by the word ‘there’.

  • there was an old house on the hill
  • there is a hole in your jeans
  • there are no decent shows on television
  • there was nothing to do
  • there was not a breadth of air stirring.

This can be explored through guided reading. Choose quality children’s text such as, Beware of Dog, by Roald Dahl to explore existential verbs and discuss their purpose. Derewianka (2011) p25.


I have to say, this doesn't really make any sense. The verbs - is, are, was and were - are part of the 'be' verb.


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That's a highly idiosyncratic name for the "existential there construction", but I'd say your best bet is just to play along with it.

It's the use of "existential there" (also called "expletive there"), which simply posits the existence of something (or non-existence) and usually its location.

There was an old house on the hill.
There are no decent shows on television.


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You never cease to amaze me, CJ.
Now, I've got something new to research.

And I thought that 'there' was a little old adverb just doin its thing. Emotion: big smile

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Cup cakea little old adverb

That's the there that shows location. Two different theres. Emotion: smile

Watch out! Thereexistential is an alligator therelocational!


That's amazing! I've got it.

Thanks, CJ Emotion: smile

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 BillJ's reply was promoted to an answer.

That seems to be from a book by an Australian educational linguist, Beverly Derewianka. You can't learn English from an educational linguist.

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