Tag Archives: “The problem is is”

The point being

Three weeks ago, I wrote about the dreaded double-is, as in “the problem is is,” which so many people say, most likely because they misheard it somewhere, picked it up and absorbed it into their speech, thinking it sounded sophisticated. In my post that day, I explained why it is redundant and incorrect to use “is” twice in a row when not preceded by a clause.

I should have thought to bring up a related error while I was on the subject. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with a help desk employee that I remembered it.

Upon making a hotel reservation recently, I discovered that my Hilton Honors membership had lapsed. The nice lady on the line explained it this way: “The reason being is that you haven’t stayed in a Hilton since 2008.”

Well, I stayed at a Hilton just six weeks ago, but that’s beside the point. The issue is “being is…” One verb, used twice, once as a gerund, the other in the present tense. Right next to each other.

I don’t intend to be snooty or judgmental (maybe a little), but I think people believe they sound intelligent when they say “the reason being is…,” just as they do when they say “the reason is is…”

The help desk lady could have explained the membership lapse at least two ways and been grammatically correct. She could have said, “The reason is that guests who do not stay with us for one year lose their membership statuses.” Alternatively, she could have said, “Your membership has lapsed, the reason being that you have not stayed with us since 2008” (subordinate adverbial clause). One may use either “being” or “is,” one or the other, not both.  Or the lady could have left the verb “to be” out of it altogether and thrown in a simple “because.”

But never “the reason is because.” That’s a subject for a whole other day (not “a whole nother day”).

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It is what it is is

When readers write in and ask me to air their peeves in this space, I try to oblige.

What I’ll call the double-is has come up at least twice here—and it bothers me as well—so let’s get it out there.

“The problem is is . . .” “The thing is is that . . .”

I began hearing this about 10 years ago and it’s still going strong.

I even hear, “. . . was is . . .”

Now let’s be careful to not put a false ban on the double-is because there are times when it is correct, such as when the first “is” is part of clause; or when “is,” in quotations, is used as a noun.

Correct:  “What the problem is is a lack of understanding.”
Incorrect: “The problem is is a lack of understanding.”

The first one is correct because “what the problem is” is a clause. Think of it this way:  The clause stands for one word. It is the subject of the sentence, and it just happens that the cause ends with the same word as the verb in the sentence. (I suppose you could insert an illegal comma in between the two, but I wouldn’t recommend it.) 

“The problem is is” is incorrect because “the problem ” is the subject and “is” is the verb. Only one verb is needed.

Somewhere along the way, people began to confuse the two, and started packing and extra “is” either for emergencies or, as is often the case, to sound more intelligent. Listen for it.

Or, if a visual would help, watch this explanation:

Now if we could only get the people we know who do this to read this blog, Sigh.

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Filed under All Things Wordish