'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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Submitted by December First on Sun, 18/05/2014 - 14:02

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hey there. i'm always confused between the use of these 2 pronouns - he/him - in this sentence: where is he? where is him? which of these 2 sentence is correctly used? and please explain why. thank you :)

Hello December First,

'He' is a subject pronoun, used as the subject of a verb.

'Him' is an object pronoun, used as the object of a verb.

In your sentence, 'he' is correct as it is the subject of the verb.  We would use 'him' when it is the object of the verb.  For example, we would say 'I can't find him anywhere.'

You can find links to information and exercises on different kinds of pronouns here.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bharathikrishn… on Fri, 09/05/2014 - 12:29

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In this my level is good I was improved a lot thank you for british council for giving this wonderful opportunity for english learners

Submitted by Nguyên Cát on Wed, 30/04/2014 - 05:06

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Everything will be better. Try my best!!!

Submitted by Nikhil Sharma on Tue, 29/04/2014 - 15:44

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Just superb test the second one...

Submitted by SvId on Mon, 14/04/2014 - 13:37

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Hello Sir I have doubts regarding helping verbs(singular or plural) with following types of sentences: There is a lot of work for you to do.-----(with a lot of.../lot of.../lots of..../ ) There was plenty to read in the apartment.-----(please elaborate all possibilities with plenty) Thank You

Hello Svld,

The rule with quantifiers followed by 'of' is that the verb agrees with the noun following the quantifier:

There is a lot of / lots of / plenty of work to do. ['work' is an uncountable noun, so there is a singlar verb ('is)]

There were a lot of / lots of /plenty of people in the park. ['people' is a plural noun, so there is a plural verb ('are')]

However, the quantifiers one and each have singular verbs even if they are followed by 'of':

There is one of the books on the table.

It is a complex topic but I hope the rules of thumb above are helpful.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot sir. Is it same rule with plenty followed by TO(like. There was plenty to read)? Best wishes for The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Svld,

plenty is usually used with uncount nouns, which take singular verbs (e.g. there is plenty of time to go see the sights), and with plural nouns (e.g. there are plenty of sights to see in the centre). As you can see in the examples, a singular or plural verb is used accordingly.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ocpdba on Wed, 09/04/2014 - 20:57

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Would you explain it to me that how can we use (there was a lot of rain last night) in above material when we use 'it' for weather.

Hi ocpdba,

When it says that it is used to talk about the weather, that doesn't mean the only way to talk about the weather is using it. That just means that one way to talk about the weather is beginning a sentence with it.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by gayanilasantha on Sat, 22/03/2014 - 06:39

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thank you very much. I hopes to study more & more with your assistance.

Submitted by sdgnour2014 on Wed, 19/03/2014 - 15:30

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hello teacher, I understand that we use (there + is ) with a noun and indefinite pronoun. Is these sentence is right? 1- There is a man waiting for you outside. 2- there is something in the air that night. 3- there are some works to do. 4- there is a beautiful girl at the door. 5- there was someone told me that your are liar.

Hello sdgnour2014,

There are some other errors in those sentences, but the 'there is/are' constructions are fine.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dencasi on Sat, 15/03/2014 - 13:13

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I'm taking a BS Education major in English of Secondary level. My professor, who wants us to learn how to dissect (diagramming) or (The term she use to identifying and naming every word and understanding the function of every phrase and clauses.) My question is, " which one is important to dissect or to know how and why (appropriately) words are use in the sentences. Which one is the best way to MASTER ENGLISH GRAMMAR? Thanks

Hi dencasi,

There is no one best way to learn grammar, because everyone learns differently and has different purposes for learning it. Learning to diagram sentences is an onerous task for most people, but you really can learn a lot about sentence structure from it.

In any case, since I suppose the class is required for your major, I'd encourage you to make the most of it. Once you're finished, you can of course choose to approach grammar as you prefer, though you might want to consider the fact that, at least in my experience, sometimes the tasks that one least likes are the ones the most can be learned from.

Good luck!

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dinesh9642 on Wed, 12/03/2014 - 19:17

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Hi Sir, I am daily reading grammar online but no any confidence in english so how improve writte and speak to fulent english and make practice any books or joining institue Thanks Dinesh xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx

Hi Dinesh,

That's great that you're reading in English every day. I would suggest that you focus less on studying grammar and more on reading texts. It's important to choose texts that you can mostly understand - if you find the text very, very difficult, it would be more effective for you to find one that you can mostly understand. There are a range of texts in our Magazine - I bet you could find some interesting ones that are at an appropriate level there.

I'd also suggest you try our Elementary Podcasts. Listen to an episode a couple of times. Then listen to the episode while reading the transcript (available under Instructions & downloads), and then do the exercises. You can improve your pronunciation by imitating the pronunciation of useful phrases and words from the Podcast. It's important to practise saying them until it feels natural to pronounce them.

What I've just suggested is quite a lot of work. Try it for a couple of weeks, and as you work, if you have any questions, please let us know. If you don't find this method useful, then let us know what goes wrong and we'll try to help you - but I think this should help you, as I know many users have made significant improvements in this way.

Finally, please note that our House Rules prohibit the sharing of any personal information.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by iphie on Fri, 07/03/2014 - 11:44

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Hello Mr. Kirk, What is the difference between we've, I've and we have, I have. And when can each be use?

Hi iphie,

I've and we've are contractions (shortened forms) of I have and we have. Contractions reflect the way the words are pronounced in informal speech. They are also used in informal writing, but are often avoided in formal writing.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Saylorbhoy on Mon, 24/02/2014 - 10:24

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I notice "There were a lot of people . . . " and "There was a lot of rain . . . " Why is 'a lot' plural in one and singular in the other? Surely "There were many people" because 'people' is plural, but "There was a lot of people" and "There was a group of people" because 'a lot' and 'a group' are both singular? Or have I misunderstood something?

Hello Saylorbhoy,

'A lot of' is an example of a quantifier.  Some quantifiers are used with count nouns (many, a few) and some are used with uncount nouns (much, a little).  Others can be used with both (a lot of, some, no).  As you can see, 'a lot of' can be used with both count nouns (such as 'people') and uncount nouns (such as 'rain').

You can find more information on quantifiers here.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by murugan anand on Mon, 17/02/2014 - 18:34

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hi,i m new member..i'm not clear in grammer.how can i improve????

Hello murugan anand,

Welcome to LearnEnglish - we're glad that you found us. Studying grammar explanations such as those found on this page and then doing exercises like the ones above is useful for a lot of people, but it can get to be a bit overwhelming if you do too much of it. I'd suggest that you use these pages as a reference as you work through another part of the site.

For example, you could start listening to the Elementary Podcasts. After you listen to an episode and work through the exercises, refer to the Grammar Reference if some of the grammar explained in that episode was unclear or if you want to practice it a bit more. Then continue on to another episode and do the same thing.

If you enjoy the Elementary Podcasts, you could do the same thing with Big City Small World or other materials such as Word on the Street. And whenever you have a specific question, please don't hesitate to ask us it here in the comments.

Let us know how you get on.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abang on Thu, 13/02/2014 - 09:39

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Hi Mr. Kirk, I just want to know what is the difference between it's, its, it?

Hello Abang,

it is a personal pronoun, its is a possessive adjective, and it's is a contracted form of it is. For example:

child: Have you seen my mobile?
mother: Sorry, I haven't seen it.
father: It's on the table.

If you have any questions after viewing those pages, please don't hesitate to ask.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team
 

Submitted by Dr.x on Tue, 11/02/2014 - 09:15

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Hello, Could you please explain what different between these two statements ? There was a lot of rain last night. There were a lot of people shouting and waving. as I see both refer to plural or I mistake here ?

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 11/02/2014 - 13:56

In reply to by Dr.x

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Hello Dr.x,

rain is an uncount noun, and uncount nouns are grammatically singular. people is a plural count noun. You might find our page on common problems with count/uncount nouns useful in reviewing this subject as well.

After reading those pages, if this is still unclear, please don't hesitate to ask about this topic again.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by linhleluoi on Mon, 10/02/2014 - 07:42

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Hi Mr, I have some confusion. What's different between it when you use to give an opinion followed by to-infinitive and it when you use to give an opinion followed by an -ing verb. Thanks.

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 10/02/2014 - 09:45

In reply to by linhleluoi

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Hi linhleluoi,

I'm afraid I don't understand your question. Could you please give an example of each of the forms you mean?

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hassanjordan2012 on Mon, 03/02/2014 - 21:33

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Hello I just wanted to ask that is it possible to have such types of questions in the exam?

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 04/02/2014 - 13:20

In reply to by hassanjordan2012

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Hello hassanjordan2012,

Which exam are you referring to? And do you mean questions like the ones in Tasks 1 and 2?

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aru.media on Fri, 31/01/2014 - 17:54

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Hi everyone,

I am Arumugam. I am new to learning english program. 

Hi Arumugam,

Welcome to LearnEnglish!

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sinnie91 on Mon, 27/01/2014 - 21:00

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Hi. when we point them out for the first time:

Look. It’s Sir Paul McCartney.

Can we also say, He's Sir Paul McCartney ?

Submitted by sinnie91 on Mon, 27/01/2014 - 20:48

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Hi. 

With an example of ''There was plenty to read in the apartment'', which word is the indefinite pronoun and the to-infinitive?

And for expressing plenty/alot, we only use is/was before that but not are/were, right?

 

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 28/01/2014 - 13:21

In reply to by sinnie91

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Hi sinnie91,

In the sentence you ask about, to read is the infinitive but there is no indefinite pronoun - rather, there is a quantifier (plenty). This is explained in the fourth point under there.

As is explained on our quantifiers page, both plenty of and a lot of are determiners that can be used with both uncount and count nouns. Therefore they can in fact be used with plural verbs such as are or were. For example: A lot of his books are novels.

Regarding your other comment above, if you were trying to distinguishing him from other people after pointing him out, "He's Paul McCartney" would be correct; but as is explained, when pointing someone out for the first time, it is used.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by teguh jumiran on Thu, 16/01/2014 - 12:47

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hello Mr,i  come from indonesian,where i meet answer correct.thank's

Hi Teguh Jumiran.

If you click on finish, you can see the correct answers.

Happy day!

 

Submitted by guna ks on Fri, 13/12/2013 - 14:43

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hello sir,

can you please tell me ,do i really have to leave a exact one letter space between each words,because in Task 2 ( Question 3) i have left a two space between the words and it shows me that the answer is wrong. I don't know what's wrong in my answer ,then i reduced the one space between the words ,then it shows right .

Hello guna ks,

The exercises matches your answer against the one in the key and I'm afraid the answers must be exactly correct, including spaces.  Where there are alternative answers possible we include them but it's not possible for us to include all possible variations of spaces in the list!  I'm afraid you'll just have to be extra careful when typing the answers in.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Manhtien.372 on Sun, 08/12/2013 - 15:33

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Hi everyone,

can someone help me with the answer of quenstion 4 in Task 2?

My answer is ' it's your' and ' birthday ' , but the answer ' it's your' is wrong.

i dont know why. I am a beginer, so really need your helps.

Thanks and hope you all have a nice day!!

Hi Manhtien.372,

Your answer is correct - the mistake is ours! The answer should be as you indicate, since that is the sentence in Task 1.

Just so you know, though, when brothers and sisters are speaking, it's possible for them to say "It's mum's birthday tomorrow". This is because they share the same mother.

Thanks for alerting us to this mistake. With your help, this has now been corrected!

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ravijoshi on Sun, 24/11/2013 - 17:40

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feel being happy when i join with it,thanks to sanjay mandaviya

Submitted by Folasade on Thu, 21/11/2013 - 09:02

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Thank you for the good job....... it is often believe that using "it" for human being is not acceptable.e.g Who is it? please buttress more on this.

Submitted by Captain ESLAM on Wed, 13/11/2013 - 12:31

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Gd Day I would like to ask one question regarding for its when i was in my school i use its for animal ,tables but i saw in yr lecture i can use for Human please clarify thx