'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.

there

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.

it

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

GapFillTyping_MTU4OTU=

it and there as dummy subjects 1

MultipleChoice_MTUyNzE=

it and there as dummy subjects 2

GapFillTyping_MTUyNzM=

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 10/06/2018 - 06:56

In reply to by smiles

Permalink

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ricci on Wed, 06/06/2018 - 18:40

Permalink
Hi 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

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 07/06/2018 - 07:28

In reply to by ricci

Permalink

Hi Valentina,

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

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hoamuoigio on Sat, 05/05/2018 - 07:05

Permalink
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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khadhar on Wed, 25/04/2018 - 12:01

Permalink
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.

Hi Khadhar,

It's difficult to give a good answer without knowing more about the situation or what you mean, but yes, since it sounds like this is a finished past event, it should probably be 'It was an exciting moment when we visited our village. It was a lot of fun'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hawa100 on Wed, 28/03/2018 - 23:48

Permalink
Dear sir, I want to know which of the following two sentences is correct: Water is very important thing that we can't be alive without it. or Water is very important thing that we cannot be alive without. Is * it* necesssry or not at the end?

Hi hawa100,

The first sentence is not correct, i.e. the sentence without 'it' at the end is the correct one. This is because the object of 'without' is 'that' and if you put 'it' at the end, it is repeated, which causes confusion.

By the way, I would recommend using 'a' before 'very important thing'. It would also sound more natural to say 'we cannot live without' at the end.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Van Hua on Thu, 22/03/2018 - 02:17

Permalink
Hi, Now I am learning about It and there (pronoun), and there is one exercise: Don’t forget, _____’s your mum’s birthday tomorrow. => I chose "there", but It was wrong. Could you please explain to me why we use "it" Thanks

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 22/03/2018 - 06:54

In reply to by Van Hua

Permalink

Hi Van Hua,

'your mum's birthday' is like a date, which is why 'is' is correct here. It might help to think that in sentences with dummy subjects, 'it' usually identifies something and 'there' says that something exists.

Hope that helps!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Niteesh on Fri, 16/03/2018 - 13:45

Permalink
There are four employee for SEO in the Company. There are Niteesh to assist you regarding Web Services. is it ok?

Hello Niteesh,

 

The best way to say this depends on who is speaking.

If someone else (not Niteesh) is saying it:

There are four employee dealing with SEO in the Company. Niteesh will assist you with Web Services.

 

If Niteesh is speaking:

There are four employee dealing with SEO in the Company. My name is Niteesh and I will assist you with Web Services.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by appu on Sun, 04/03/2018 - 20:56

Permalink
Which is correct, If you’re hungry, there is some lasagne in the fridge. or If you’re hungry, there are some lasagne in the fridge.

Hello appu,

Why don't you tell us what you think the answer is and why this is the case, and we'll be happy to tell you if you are right or not. Trying to work it out for yourself is a much more effective way to learn.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Queenie-Chan on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 14:11

Permalink
What about the following,which one is correct or better?Can anyone clarify these for me please ? "It is no use......" "There is no use......" or "there is no denial......" "it is no denial...."

Hello Queenie-Chan,

Both of the first two phrases are commonly used. For example, 'The car won't start. It's no use (to try anymore) or 'There's no use in wasting our time trying to start the car'.

I'm afraid the other two phrases are not correct. 'there's no denying' is a common phrase -- you can see a definition and example sentence in the Cambridge Dictionary entry for 'deny'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Veteran on Tue, 19/12/2017 - 06:41

Permalink
Hi, I hope you all are fine, Suppose there is a TV in a room, someone (blind possibly so not able to see the TV) asks: "are there any TVs in this room?" NOW my question is: what is the correct answer? "Yes, there are. There's a TV ..." or since there's only one TV; "Yes, there is. There's a TV..." If will be really thankful if you answer the question.

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 19/12/2017 - 09:14

In reply to by Veteran

Permalink

Hello Veteran,

The most precise answer in the second one, but the first one is not wrong, especially since you correct yourself as you speak (changing from plural to singular when specifying the number).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Etibar on Wed, 13/12/2017 - 15:53

Permalink
First task Total score is 10 out of 10 (100%) and the second task I have Total score is 10 out of 14 (71%)

Submitted by NourSfieh on Tue, 28/11/2017 - 07:23

Permalink
Hi dears , I wounder about the following sentence ; "_____’s red wine or white. Which would you prefer?" why we use ( there ) instead of (it) ?! Although the speaker was given an option using a preposition (or) . I think if they used ( and ) it would be more suitable for ( there ) but using ( or ) gives the feeling to use ( it). Please advise Thanks Nour

Hello again Nour,

In this case, you're not saying that a bottle of wine is red or that it's white. You're saying that there are two options (red wine and white wine). Since you're not identifying a bottle of wine, but rather saying that two options exist, 'there' is the correct form.

Using 'and' or 'or' doesn't affect the choice of 'it' or 'there'. You could say 'there's red wine and white wine', though since you say 'which would you prefer?' after, 'or' is better since it implies a choice of one or the other.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Elmar H. on Tue, 07/11/2017 - 17:46

Permalink
Hello, Why we use indefenite article in this clause? We can't use definite article with "there"? There is a party at Nick’s tonight.

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 08/11/2017 - 05:18

In reply to by Elmar H.

Permalink

Hello Elmar,

It's possible to use 'the' here. The indefinite article is more common, though, since 'there is' is often used to announce an event. If you use 'the', the party has already been mentioned previously in the conversation in some way.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Urmila Nokrek on Sun, 29/10/2017 - 07:30

Permalink
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by pcultural on Tue, 24/10/2017 - 21:09

Permalink
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aoll212 on Sun, 22/10/2017 - 09:08

Permalink
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ogut on Fri, 20/10/2017 - 13:17

Permalink
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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ko4kina on Fri, 29/09/2017 - 13:27

Permalink
"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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ola Jamal on Mon, 11/09/2017 - 17:34

Permalink
Hello, 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?

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 12/09/2017 - 06:07

In reply to by Ola Jamal

Permalink

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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kurt Nilsen on Tue, 05/09/2017 - 11:04

Permalink
Nice, very nice

Submitted by Fru Strande on Sun, 13/08/2017 - 08:22

Permalink
Thank you for the exercises. I love it.

Submitted by Malthael on Fri, 28/07/2017 - 18:25

Permalink
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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mjmangibin1992 on Mon, 24/07/2017 - 14:37

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

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 25/07/2017 - 02:39

In reply to by mjmangibin1992

Permalink

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rasha94 on Mon, 24/07/2017 - 09:25

Permalink
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?

Hello rasha94,

No, only 'it's' is correct here. We use 'it' to identify days and dates (like a birthday).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Omyhong on Thu, 06/07/2017 - 05:22

Permalink
Hi, sir. I am having a problem with the use of "there is" and "there are" in the following sentence. Can u tell me if I should use there is or there are? a) There is/ are an mango tree and a durian tree in my backyard. My friend suggests me to write the sentence in following way: A mango tree and a durian tree are in my backyard. Tq

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 06/07/2017 - 06:36

In reply to by Omyhong

Permalink

Hi Omyhong,

The most common rule here is to match the verb (is/are) with the first item in any list. For example:

There is a cat in the kitchen. ['a cat' = singular, so we use is]

There are two dogs in the kitchen. ['two dogs' = plural, so we use are]

There is a cat and two dogs in the kitchen. ['a cat' = singular, so we use is]

There are two dogs and a cat in the kitchen. ['two dogs' = plural, so we use are]

 

However, this is a complex area with many nuances. You can find a discussion of the topic here if you wish to investigate further.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MCWSL on Fri, 30/06/2017 - 18:21

Permalink
Hello, ''There is many of them'' ''There is too many of them'' What verb form should we use in these situations? I cannot figure out whether the noun phrase is singular or plural. Thank you.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 30/06/2017 - 20:34

In reply to by MCWSL

Permalink

Hello MCWSL,

Sometimes in informal speech, people use the singular form 'there is', but really 'there are' is the correct form here, since 'many of them' is plural. 'many' is always plural, since it refers to more than one thing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by adamjr on Sat, 24/06/2017 - 17:02

Permalink
Hello, I'd like to ask you something. My teacher told me about the word "live". It doesn't accept the ing-form according to the grammatic. Is it true? Thank you!