'it' and 'there' as dummy subjects

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.

there

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.

it

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

GapFillTyping_MTU4OTU=

it and there as dummy subjects 1

MultipleChoice_MTUyNzE=

it and there as dummy subjects 2

GapFillTyping_MTUyNzM=

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Hello Mypink,

Thanks for your nice comment - we're certainly glad you found us. Regarding your first question, you could also use the infinitive form (as in your alternative). Both infinitives and -ing forms can be used in this kind of sentences, though infinitives are probably more common (as your intuition seems to know already).

As for your second question, you could look at it this way. It's not specifically mentioned above, but 'there is/are' is used simply to say that something exists. That's how I see this sentence.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Joyce Lv on Wed, 12/11/2014 - 07:48

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this enligsh learning website looks good

Submitted by archit jain on Mon, 27/10/2014 - 13:05

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Hello Just wanted to know from which tense this sentence belongs to. "There must have been more than five hundred in the audience"

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 27/10/2014 - 14:25

In reply to by archit jain

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Hello archit jain,

You can learn more about 'must' on our certain, probable or possible page, and about 'must have been' on our modals + have page. After reading those explanations, please let us know if you have any other questions in the comments on one of those pages.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bhavik vala on Thu, 16/10/2014 - 17:33

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what is mean grammmar

Submitted by RICHADGUSTAVO on Fri, 19/09/2014 - 22:46

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it´s good to share this practice if you decide to write me.

Submitted by Mahtab Kazemlu on Fri, 19/09/2014 - 08:39

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Hi. what is the meaning of imperative that is written above?

Hello Mahtab,

'imperative' can mean different things (see the dictionary), but the meaning used above is the verb form used to give commands.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

It's a ordering. It's a command. We can see examples of this in the instructions manuals.

Submitted by Mahmudunnabi on Thu, 18/09/2014 - 20:52

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Hi, I'm a new user and I want to learn English grammer accruately because I am deficient in English language.

Submitted by gabriellajibriel on Thu, 18/09/2014 - 16:17

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Hi i am new too any help its welcome

Submitted by zagrus on Sun, 14/09/2014 - 06:57

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Hi, I read that "it"can be used to refer to a baby when the gender is unknown. So, is the use of "it" correct in the following sentences: "A father watches his baby wishing to reach a toy that is far from it. Then the father carries the baby and brings it closer to the toy so that it can play with it." Thanks in advance

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 15/09/2014 - 15:09

In reply to by zagrus

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Hi zagrus,

Yes, your sentence is correct.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Daniel Doan on Tue, 09/09/2014 - 09:04

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There is someone waiting to see you. Dear Would you explain me about 'someone' here is countable or uncountable? I think 'someone' is people so can countable, is it right? Thanks!

Hi Daniel,

You can find an explanation of someone and see examples of how it is used on our indefinite pronouns page. There you'll see that it takes a singular noun.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tengku Aufaer on Thu, 04/09/2014 - 13:50

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great games to improve english skill

Submitted by Minh Dang on Mon, 25/08/2014 - 10:26

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Which can we use It to give an opinion followed by to-infinitive in case? Which can we use It to give an opinion followed by an-ing in case?

Hello Minh Dang,

I'm not sure I understand your question, but I assume you are asking about the difference between these two forms - when to use one, and when the other. There is often not a great difference between the two, but the -ing form generally has a continuous meaning, and we use it when we are in the process of doing something, or imagine being in the process of doing something. The 'to infinitive' form is often used more to talk about the idea of doing something. However, these are very general concepts and in many cases there is no firm difference.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rizwan cafoor on Wed, 20/08/2014 - 18:18

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dear sir im new user i want learn english just give some ideas

Submitted by E4t on Wed, 13/08/2014 - 21:09

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Hi I'm new user and I'm very happy to join with you because I want to learn English language so what to do?

Submitted by FahadRafiq on Wed, 13/08/2014 - 05:09

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Hi, I am new user and I want to improve my English Language please advise what should I do.

Submitted by Mazhar Farooq on Tue, 12/08/2014 - 04:08

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I am new user and I want to improve English if any tell me what should I do?

Submitted by Amirh on Thu, 31/07/2014 - 21:57

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Dear would you let me know how can I distinguish singularity and plurality of noun phrase in tow following sentences, plz? There was a lot of rain last night. There were a lot of people shouting and waving.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 01/08/2014 - 07:41

In reply to by Amirh

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Hello Amirh,

The word 'rain' is an uncount noun, which you can read about on our uncount nouns page. As you'll see there, even though uncount nouns often refer to things that can be regarded as plural, they are grammatically singular.

There is no way to identify whether a noun is a count or uncount based on its form. Many times, nouns that end in 's' are plural forms of a count noun, but I'm afraid that you must learn many uncount nouns simply by practice.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by narsyh on Sun, 27/07/2014 - 07:31

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hi . why in practice 7 in task 2 ,said it rained and dont say its rained? plz help me thanks a lot for teaching

Hello narsyh,

The past simple (it rained) and not the present perfect (it's rained) is the correct form here because the time referred to at the beginning of the sentence (The last time we had a holiday) is in the finished past. This is explained in some detail on our talking about the past page, which I'd recommend you have a look at. If it's still not clear after studying the explanation there, please ask us a question on that page and we'll be happy to help you.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by PatriciaViana on Thu, 03/07/2014 - 01:32

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Okay. I managed to solve. Tks

Submitted by PatriciaViana on Thu, 03/07/2014 - 01:12

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Sorry I can not understand what to do in task 2. Thank you.

Submitted by surendrasharma70 on Tue, 24/06/2014 - 12:17

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I am confused in the use of "myself" and "ourselves". Where to use the appropriate form. Please clarify.

Hello surendrasharma70,

We use 'myself' to refer to only one person - the speaker.  We use 'ourselves' to refer to more than one person - the speaker and one or more others.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In the 2nd part of 1st example of 'there'...instead of saying ...it will start at 7o'clock, if i say, it starts at 7 o'clock. Is the 2nd sentence wrong?

Hello aarushmom,

No, the present simple is perfectly fine here and you can say say 'starts'.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nosheenmajeed on Sat, 21/06/2014 - 23:10

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good lesson. really helpful but there should be more exercise for practice. Please could you give me some advice how can we use them accurately in speaking because when I speak, I can't use them accurately. plz help me......

Hello nosheenmajeed,

When learning anything there is usually a gap between the time when we understand it and the time when we master it.  It's normal for it to take some time for us to be able to use something that we have learnt fluently and accurately in speech, so don't be disheartened if you find it difficult to use words or structures immediately.  A very good way to help bridge this step is to practise using the words or structures yourself at home.  With structures such as 'there is a...' and 'it is...' you can practise describing what you can see ('there is (a) + noun') and commenting on it (it's + adjective...).  Try speaking English to yourself while you are at home, making different sentences using the structures, and you will find it easier to use it outside when communicating with other people.

The other advice I would give you is to not worry too much about making mistakes in English when you speak.  It's normal for our spoken language to be less accurate than our written language, even when we are speaking our native language. When we are speaking we often change our minds in mid-sentence, or choose to phrase something differently, or do not finish a particular sentence.  It is perfectly normal for our speech to be chaotic and less accurate, so while it's good to try to be accurate, don't worry too much about mistakes and practise speaking as often as you can and you will improve.

I hope that advice is helpful.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by moox on Sat, 21/06/2014 - 15:20

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Sorry, but there's a mistake in Task 2, No. 9. We need 4 words to complete this task. -- Please correct me, if my English isn't correct. Thank you very much.

Hello moox,

Thank you for pointing this out!  From time to time some errors such as this slip through and we rely on eagle-eyed users like you to spot them for us.  I have corrected the question to read 'four words'.

Thanks again,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dr.frankenstien87 on Mon, 16/06/2014 - 19:12

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Great lesson, thank you so much

Submitted by tiwapa01 on Sat, 14/06/2014 - 11:48

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Hi, it is used for non living thing. Then why we use like it's me or it's palak? Regards, Palak

Hello tiwapa01,

In these examples we use 'it' in a similar way to how we use 'there', as what is usually called 'a dummy subject'.  You can find more information on this on this page.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jcakre on Wed, 11/06/2014 - 19:33

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Really! It drived me crasy! I was unable to remember anyone of them properly.

Submitted by Musab Bassam on Tue, 10/06/2014 - 22:37

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The second exercise is hard, why i must remember the all content of first exercise ?!

Hi Musab,

The purpose of a recall exercise such as this one is to challenge your memory. It's more difficult on purpose and is closer to the situation you'll find yourself in when you have to produce these forms by yourself.

But of course you can skip such exercises if you want to!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by somaye.khodaveysi on Thu, 05/06/2014 - 19:50

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Good but how I can memorize the grammer and yse it when I need?

Hello somaye.khodaveysi,

The key to using it is to practise.  Remember that you can do these exercises more than once and a good approach is to do them the first time, note down your score, then go on to other pages/structures before coming back to this one after a week or so.  You can do the exercise again, compare your score and see how well you have remembered it.

Learning is a process which happens over time rather than an on/off switch.  Revision, repetitiion and practice are very important to help you memorise and use the language.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Novelino Andreanto on Tue, 27/05/2014 - 15:12

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Hi everyone. Could you tell me when exactly we can use 'it' or 'there'? I'm not quite sure about this one. Thank you :)