Level: beginner

English clauses always have a subject:

His father has just retired. > He was a teacher. (NOT Was a teacher.)
I'm waiting for my wife.She is late. (NOT Is late.)

... except for the imperative:

Go away.
Play it again, please.


If there is no other subject, we use there to talk about:

  • where or when something is:

There's an interesting book on the shelf.
There'll be an eclipse of the moon tonight.

  • a number or amount:

There is plenty of bread left.
There were twenty people at the meeting.

  • something existing or happening:

There's a small problem.
There was a nasty fight.


We use it to talk about:

  • times and dates:              

It's nearly one o'clock.
It's my birthday.

  • the weather:

It's raining.
It's a lovely day.
It was getting cold.

We use it with the verb be and an –ing form or to-infinitive to express opinions:

It's great living here.
It's nice to meet you.

Subjects of sentences


it and there as dummy subjects 1


it and there as dummy subjects 2



It is important for them to be there. Does this mean the same as "It is important that they be there", that is, them being there is important, or Does this mean them being there is important to them?
It is unacceptable for them to do that. Does this mean them doing that action is unacceptable, or doing that action is unacceptable to them?

Hello sam61

In general -- in other words, unless the context indicates otherwise -- the sentences would mean the same thing and would indicate the perspective of the person who wrote or spoke them. If you wanted to talk about it being important for 'them', i.e. that those people consider it important, you could say, for example, 'For them, it is important to be there'. But even in this case, I would want to emphasise this with another statement clarifying exactly who it is important for (e.g. 'For the parents of very young children, it is important for them to witness their child's first step.').

I would say the same thing about the second pair of sentences you ask about.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

When we talk about people and there is more than 1 person, and we point them for a first time, is this forms correct?

Look. There are twins over ther!
Look. There are Johnsons!

Hi Iwona_Z,

If you want to point out twins to the person you are speaking to, I'd suggest something like 'Look at those twins over there!' or 'Look at the Johnson twins over there!'

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Please i bit confuse, which of these sentence is correct

Who is there? Is me.
Whose is talking over there? I think is Charles.

Who is there? It's me.
Whose is talking over there? I think it's Charles.


Hello iphie,

The second pair of examples (with 'it') are correct. Verbs in English sentences generally require subjects and the examples of 'it' in those examples are the subjects.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much. I appreciate

May I know the difference between
It's nice to meet you.
It's nice meeting you.

Hello aliali20054,

Both of these phrases are quite common when we meet someone for the first time and I don't think there is any real difference in meaning. Both can refer to past, present or future.

After the first meeting we would use the verb 'see' rather than 'meet':

It was nice seeing you again.

It was nice to see you again.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Thanks very much for your reply.

Does it mean that the concept of the plurality of the noun phrase only refers to the noun that is next to the verb? One of my student's mum thinks the whole list of items is plural, so it should be regarded as a plural noun phrase. How should I explain to her?