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



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?


Hi Smiles,

I'm afraid English is not consistent in how it regards lists of items.

When the verb comes before the list it agrees with the closest noun to it (i.e. the first in the list):

There is an apple and two bananas on the table.

There are two bananas and an apple on the table.


However, when the verb follows the list it is always plural, even if each individual item in the list is singular:

An apple and two bananas are on the table.

An apple and a banana are on the table.



The LearnEnglish Team


Should we use "there is" or "there are" with a list of nouns in which the first item is a singular noun?

1. There is an apple, two bananas, a pear and two oranges.
2. There are an apple, two bananas, a pear and two oranges.

Which one is correct? 1 or 2?


Hi smiles,

When the first item in the list is singular, we use a singular verb. In your example, There is is the correct form.



The LearnEnglish Team

I tried to do the excercises under the section "english grammar" but the tasks are empty and there are no excercises. Can someone help me?

Valentina Ricci

Hi Valentina,

I'm afraid we had a few technical problems with the exercises but everything should be working correctly now.



The LearnEnglish Team

1. It will be lunch time when we get to York, so let's have lunch there.
No, It will not be time for lunch because our train to Edinburgh leaves York at 13.15. ( I think this sentence refer to TIME so that I use " It", but it 's wrong )

2. There's a funny smell here, there 's turpentine .( I think this sentence refer to introduce the existing of turpentine so that I use THERE, but it's not correct ).

Could you please to explain to me ?

Hello hoamuoigio,

If you say it will not be time for lunch then you mean that the time on the clock is not the time at which you usually have lunch or at which lunch is scheduled. It is a statement about what time it is, not how much time you have. 


If you say there will not be time for lunch then you are talking about how much time you have available and whether or not it is sufficient for lunch.

In the context of a train leaving the second sentence (with there) makes more sense, I would say.


In your second example, again you could use either option but, again, the meaning changes and the sentence also needs to be changed:


There's a funny smell here, it's turpentine.

In this sentence you are talking about what the smell is. The two statements (there is a funny smell and the smell is turpentine) are directly connected because the pronoun 'it' refers back to the noun 'the smell'.


There's a funny smell here, there's some turpentine.

In this sentence you are talking about the presence of turpentine. Obviously, the listener would understand that the two statements (there is a funny smell and there is some turpentine) are connected, but it is implied rather than directly stated. 'Some' is necessary here for the sentence to be grammatically correct.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,

Correct me if this sentence is right "It has been excited moment that we visited to our village had fun a lot" I am not sure that the word "It has been" used is correct.