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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



There has been an accident. I hope no one is hurt.
There has been an accident. I hope no one was hurt.

Are they have the same meaning?

Hello Ola Jamal,

There is a difference in certain contexts. The accident happened in the (recent) past in both sentences. The sentence with 'is' describes the present situation - whether or not people are hurt now. The sentence with 'was' describes the situation when the accident happened, but does not mean that the people are not still hurt. If the accident was very recent then it is quite likely that the people would not have recovered from any injuries and so the use of 'is' or 'was' would make no difference, but this is a question of the specific context in which the sentence is used.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I think I got it.
Thank you.

Nice, very nice

Thank you for the exercises.
I love it.

Hello, it says:
If we want to show the subject of the to-infinitive we use for:

There was plenty for "us" to read in the apartment
There was nothing for "them" to watch on television.

the question is why we have to use "object pronouns" as the "subject" of to-infinitive?
i know it doesn't make sense if we use object pronouns in that case, but it just made me a bit confused. i would appreciate if you could clarify me.

Hello Malthael,

After a preposition such as 'for' we must have an object, and so an object preposition is used. It does look unusual and in fact it is unusual - it is an example of what is called 'exceptional case-marking'.

You can read more about this here.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, :)
What is the rule for "There are" and "There were"?. I don't know when to use them.

Hello mjmangibin1992,

There may be some exceptions, but in general 'there are' refers to a present time and 'there were' refers to the past or an unreal time (e.g. in a second conditional structure). Both are plural forms -- the singular forms are 'there is' and 'there was' respectively.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,i have a question:
Don’t forget, _____’s your mum’s birthday tomorrow.
Can we use in this sentence both of them?it also there?