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



Hi !
Is this sentence correct ?
It can be hard work to look after young children.

Best wishes,

Hello xusiman,

Yes, that is correct. Good work!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Would it be incorrect this way, " It can be a hard work to look after young children.

Hello Deeps04,

'Work' is generally uncountable and so we would not use 'a' here. The sentence would otherwise be fine:

It can be hard work to look after young children.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

We use a plural verb if the noun phrase is plural:
There were a lot of people shouting and waving.
i have problem why we used 'a' before 'lot of' and a is singular then why we used 'were' ?

Hello flavia,

I can see how that is confusing, but even though grammatically it may appear to refer to one unit, the meaning is considered plural, like 'many'. Since it is used to more than one thing (in the case of count nouns), a plural verb is the correct form.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Do we use "It" to describe.. non living things or small insects.. or animals..

Hello learningpro,

Yes, 'it' can be used to talk about a non-living thing or an animal, e.g. a dog, a computer, an airplane. Note that it is singular - if you want to speak about more than one, e.g. dogs, computers or airplanes, then you must use 'they'.

Some people use 'he' or 'she' to talk about animals that they have a relationship with. For example, if you had a dog as a pet, you would probably call it 'he' or 'she'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Could you clarify what it is used with "baby". "It" or "he/she"? In some old books I found that it's better to use "it" when we talk about a baby but I doubt about this.... It seems to me that nowadays nobody would say "it" about a human baby.

Hello Elena TAM,

Unless the gender of the baby is unknown or one is speaking of babies in general, it would be quite unusual to use 'it' to refer to a baby. Once you know whether it's a boy or a girl (notice I used 'it' there to show that I don't know), I'd recommend using 'he' or 'she'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team