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The pattern:
There ( ) [ ] in the room.

Some example sentences:
There (is) [a cat] in the room.
There (are) [2 cats] in ther room.

So my question, if the stuff in the square brackets is: [a cat, a dog, and a ball], should we use (is), or should we use (are)?

Is the correct formulation:

There are a cat, a dog and a ball in the room. ?

OR

There is a cat, a dog, and a ball in the room. ?

OR

Some other formulation. ?
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"There is" is used almost idiomatically this way. If you are doing an overall recitation of the "stuff" that's in the room, you can easily make it singular. If someone is asking for a detailed account of what's in the room, with each item considered alone, then you can use are. I think that very few people would think that "there is" is wrong unless the first thing that followed it was a plural nouns on its own, like "there is two cats and a dog."
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Grammar Geek <>"There is" is used almost idiomatically this way. If you are doing an overall recitation of the "stuff" that's in the room, you can easily make it singular. If someone is asking for a detailed account of what's in the room, with each item considered alone, then you can use are. I think that very few people would think that "there is" is wrong unless the first thing that followed it was a plural nouns on its own, like "there is two cats and a dog."
I agree. You normally look at the term/word closest to "there is" to make the determination.
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Marius Hancu
Grammar Geek wrote:

I agree. You normally look at the term/word closest to "there is" to make the determination.

I am assuming this rule is not applicable to formal writing style. Am I right?

PrinnySquad.
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It can be hard to decide between what sounds right and what is right. I'd rewrite, In the room are a cat, a dog, two lizards and what looks like about 20 fish in a huge tank.

It's the "There is" that begs for the "is."