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

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it and there as dummy subjects 1

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it and there as dummy subjects 2

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Comments

Your page helps me a lot. One thing I do not understand is: is "there" a grammatical function (subject, object...) or a structural category (noun, verb, noun phrase...)?

Hello braam,

'There' can have a number of functions in the sentence. It can be an adverb, for example, or an indefinite pronoun.  Do you have a particular example in mind? We'll be happy to identify its use in any particular context.

You can read about the various roles 'there' can play on this page:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/there

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

This site really helps me lot to improve my grammar... And i have framed some sentence... It's raining continuously for four days. & They say there will be continuous rain for next four days. Whether they above are right?

Hello rajesh devendran
I'm very glad to hear that our pages have been helping you improve your grammar! Your second sentence is correct. In the first one, we would use the present perfect continuous tense instead of the present continuous: 'It has been raining continuously for four days.' This is because the rain began in the past and continues in the present.
You can read more about the present perfect on:
https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/present-perfect
https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/present-per...
All the best
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Would it be correct to say: There were a lot of people there OR There were a lot of people in there.

Thanks,
Suresh

Hello suresh

Both can be correct. 'there' is more general and 'in there' is more specific in that it refers to an enclosed space. 'there' can also refer to an enclosed space, but since it can refer to others as well, it is not as specific.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
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?
Also,
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

Kirk

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!
or
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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