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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



Which would be correct? 'It rained' or 'It's rained?'

Hello Urmila,

That really depends on the context. Both of them can be correct in different situations. Our talking about the past page should help you decide which is best for the context you have in mind. But if, after reading through the explanation you're still not sure, feel free to ask us, though please explain the context to us and what you think the correct form is.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Would be wrong to say:
It has been an accident.
Instead of: There has been an accident.

Hello pcultural,

Yes, 'It has been an accident' is not correct. Here you are introducing a new topic (announcing something that has happened) and 'an accident' is a noun phrase. These are two clues that can help you choose 'there' instead of 'it'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Good day, I have a question regarding 'it' pronoun:

It may substantially HELP people to be more productive... OR
It may substantially HELPS people to be more productive...
Which one is correct? Thx.

Hello Aoll212,

'help' is the correct form here. After modal verbs like 'may', the bare infinitive (also called 'first form' or 'base form') is used.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hey! Could you explain these sentences.I couldn't understand the difference between these two.
They live on a busy road.There must be a lot of noise from traffic
They live on a busy road.It must be very noisy

Hello ogut,

In terms of meaning, there is not much difference between the sentences. The first one is a bit more specific since it mentions the source of the noise ('from traffic'), but otherwise they mean the same thing.

In terms of grammar, the first uses a form of 'there is' with a noun ('noise') and the second uses 'be' plus an adjective.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

"There was a lot of rain last night"
Can i say this like "It was raining too much last night" ??
Thank you in advance

Hello ko4kina,

'too much' is not the same as 'a lot of'. 'too much' means that it was more than you wanted, whereas 'a lot' just indicates quantity. Please see this page for a thorough explanation.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team