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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 flavia,

I can see how that is confusing, but even though grammatically it may appear to refer to one unit, the meaning is considered plural, like 'many'. Since it is used to more than one thing (in the case of count nouns), a plural verb is the correct form.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Do we use "It" to describe.. non living things or small insects.. or animals..

Hello learningpro,

Yes, 'it' can be used to talk about a non-living thing or an animal, e.g. a dog, a computer, an airplane. Note that it is singular - if you want to speak about more than one, e.g. dogs, computers or airplanes, then you must use 'they'.

Some people use 'he' or 'she' to talk about animals that they have a relationship with. For example, if you had a dog as a pet, you would probably call it 'he' or 'she'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Elena TAM,

Unless the gender of the baby is unknown or one is speaking of babies in general, it would be quite unusual to use 'it' to refer to a baby. Once you know whether it's a boy or a girl (notice I used 'it' there to show that I don't know), I'd recommend using 'he' or 'she'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Why 'in' is used in below sentence, I am unable understand it's logic.
It’s very cold 'in' here.
Please explain.
Masood Khan

Hello Masood Khan,

You can use either 'here' or 'in here' in this sentence. 'Here' describes the place where we are and you can use it in any location - outdoors and inside.

'In here' has the same meaning but is only used when you are in a place - a room, a building etc. You would not use 'in here' if you were outside on the street, for example.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot

Hello there !

Is this sentence semantically correct ?
When I was walking down home,I saw a skeletal,white-faced,child sleeping alone at a corner.

thanks in advance,

The Dungeon

Hello The Dungeon,

There are problems with the sentence - the words 'down' and 'at' don't really fit here.

However, I'm afraid this question is really beyond the scope of this site. We don't provide a checking service for random sentences! If we tried to do this then we'd end up doing little else and proof-reading everyone's writing and homework for them. We're happy to help with how the language works or to explain certain features, but proof-reading is really outside of what the site offers.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi !
Is this sentence correct ?
There used to be a semi-collapsed building in this small yard.