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'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.


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 Teachers,
I have a sentence here:
"Venezuela does not produce wheat and relies on imports bought in by the government which it then sends to mills where it is ground and then distributed."
There are 2 'it' in this sentence, one refer to 'Venezuela' the other refer to 'wheat'. I wonder is it correct to use 'it' in this way, isn't it seem ambiguous to the reader?
Thank you

Hello Kaisoo93,

I have no problem understanding that sentence, but it might be a good idea to rephrase it so as to eliminate any potential confusion. For example, you could put 'send' in the passive voice, something like '... brought in by the government, which are then sent to mills where it ...' I'd recommend using a comma before 'which', and also note that the verb should be 'brought' (not 'bought').

You could also do a more substantial rephrasing (though I don't think it's necessary) such as: 'Venezuela does not produce wheat and relies on government-acquired imports, which are sent to mills to be ground and distributed.'

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Can you please tell me where is the subject and verb in
There is a book

Hello Hope150097,

The subject is 'There' and the verb is 'is'.

The sentence is an example of a 'dummy subject'. You can read more about dummy subjects here and here.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi. Is it possible to use the dummy subject 'there' not with the verb 'to be' but with other verbs? Would these sentences be correct:
In the room, there stood a desk.
In the room, there were gathered people.

Hello exvano,

Yes, that is perfectly fine. Putting the prepositional phrase first makes the style quite literary but it is certainly not incorrect.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi All,

Thank you for your help. Your lessons are so useful! :)

Hi Sir,

Can you please explain why we don't have question mark for "where" section? As it seems they are asking question.

Thank you in advance for your help

Hello Bilal Mustafa,

We'd be happy to help you, but could you please tell me which section you mean? I don't see a 'where' section on the page or in the exercises. Have I missed it?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Bilal.Mustafa,

Thanks for clarifying that. None of the three sentences there are questions, which is why they don't have a question mark at the end. The first two are statements and the last one ('I wonder'), although similar to a question, doesn't have a question mark as normally none is used in such a sentence.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team