Translation:Tom is an engineer, that's why there is an encyclopedia and many textbooks on his desk.
No, no, no. "Is" is correct, "are" is wrong.
If you reverse the order, it would be "are", i.e. "there are many books and an encyclopaedia".
The plurality is determined by the FIRST item in the list, which is singular here. Another way to look at it is to think, "there is an encyclopaedia and (there are) many books", except the bracketed words are always skipped in English.
Your view of plurality is standard in British English, but in Canadian English (Translation Bureau, a body of the Canadian government), "An exception occurs when there is a list of nouns as subject. Logically, a list of two or more items would be plural and would therefore require a plural verb:<pre>
There are a punch bowl, finger foods and a cake on the table.</pre>
But it sounds odd to have are next to the singular noun phrase a punch bowl. The verb is would sound better:<pre>
There is a punch bowl, finger foods and a cake on the table.</pre>
So which of these sentences is correct? The answer is both. The first one follows the standard rule. But the second is also accepted, and many writers would prefer it because it sounds more natural. Therefore, when the subject after there is or there are is a list of items, you can make your verb agree with the first noun in the list."
Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, comes down clearly on the side of "are." She is American.
There are an mistake in this sentences.
You see that? That's wrong.
Above it shows "Tom is an engineer, that's why there is an encyclopedia~" Which is precisely what I put the first time I got this sentence in a quiz. Upon doing so it was marked as wrong and showed that the correct answer is "Tom is an engineer, that's why there are an encyclopedia~" This is wrong. The article must be is, for there is only 1 encyclopedia and thus the article must be singular.
If it were to be more than 1, it would be "Tom is an engineer, that's why there are encyclopedias~".
That would be correct if the phrase stopped at "an encyplodia", but it continues with "and many textbooks"; thus, the verb must also be the plural version "are". This could all be avoided by taking out "there are" - the sentence would still make sense: "Tom is an engineer, thus the encyplodia and many textbooks on his desk."
I've read all the posts and want to add my voice on the side of the claim that the phrase,"there is an encyclopedia and...", is grammatically incorrect.
In this clause, the verb "to be" governs the entire noun phrase "encyclopedia and many textbooks", which is plural. The fact that "there is" is preferred by many native speakers of English is, in my opinion, irrelevant. (Many native speakers make common grammatical errors. That doesn't mean that they aren't errors.) This particular preference would appear to be from the verb being in proximity to a singular noun. But show me a grammar textbook that states that proximity is the rule for number agreement.
(I'm a native speaker of English -- USA Midwest.)
The use of contractions is not a sign of poor diction - it is perfectly normal, acceptable English. What's odd here, though, is that there's one "is" and one "'s", yet when I chose "Tom is" and "that's", I was told I had a typo - how is that possible when there is only one "is" in the word bank?
Tom is an engineer, hence on his desk there's an encyclopedia and many textbooks = sounds only English versus US translation. Better would be ", that's why on his desk is an encyclopedia and many textbooks." or even use therefore. There's no need to translate "there is or there are" and hence sounds like something someone would have said 40 years ago.