'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=

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Hello alvinpateln97,

Although grammatically you can argue that 'It is I' is the correct form, we actually use the object pronoun in such constructions:

It's me / It's him / It's them etc.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zagrus on Mon, 03/10/2016 - 09:13

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Hello, Which sentence is correct: " How is he the manager when it is I who manages all the job" or " ow is he the manager when it is me who manages all the job" best wishes

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 03/10/2016 - 13:05

In reply to by zagrus

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Hello Abdullah,

There is a lack of consensus regarding which of those forms is correct. The first form is probably considered more correct, but is quite formal and not used very often, even in much writing. In fact, the issue is even a bit more complicated, as there's also the conjugation of the verb (here 'manage' or 'manages' to consider). The best version for a formal sentence would probably be '... it is I who manage ...' whereas the more common version would be '... it is me who manages ...'

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anuru2015 on Sun, 18/09/2016 - 11:03

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Task 2 checks how much you are focused. It is basically about the "structure" of the sentences..

Submitted by Mahender Kumar on Tue, 13/09/2016 - 10:42

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Good exercise, i like the Task 2. Because most of the time we forget what we read , it help to recall.

Submitted by abd_elrahmann on Sat, 10/09/2016 - 08:31

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hi, i think that task 2 totally not related to the session , we just focusing on the pronoun and uses of them not on others thank you

Submitted by bonabiel on Sun, 25/09/2016 - 10:47

In reply to by abd_elrahmann

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agree :D

Submitted by zjboss on Mon, 29/08/2016 - 04:07

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I would like to give some feedback for this part of the grammar lesson. Task 2 is not required because why would we remember what has been said earlier. It should be focused just only on grammar.

Hello zjboss,

Thank you for your comment. This task has an element of memory in it but we consider this valid as selection and retention of information is also a linguistic skill. Of course, there is no obligation to complete every task on each page; you can choose the tasks which are helpful to or relevant for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Muhammad Soban on Sat, 27/08/2016 - 08:09

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HELLO SIR, Sir your exercise does not show to me that is at the end of lesson. kindly help me.

Hello Muhammad Soban,

I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean. Is the problem that you don't see the exercise? If so, I'd recommend trying a different browser or updating your browser, as our exercises should work on any recent browser. But if you still can't see it, please let us know what browser version you're using.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zjboss on Mon, 29/08/2016 - 04:10

In reply to by Muhammad Soban

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Hi Muhammad, I had the same problem but I figured it out. When you answer the last question of a task then click on the finish button in the lower pane of the task. As soon as you click on finish, it will show your results on the screen and options for further actions. Regards Jay

Submitted by JUNE.CHEN on Wed, 24/08/2016 - 14:25

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Hello, I'am a new comer here, i want to improve my poor English,hope everyone can help me. Thanks in advance for you. I'am confused about why use the word 'IT' as dummy subjects instead of 'THERE' in the follwing sentense? Don’t forget, _____’s your mum’s birthday tomorrow.

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 25/08/2016 - 02:09

In reply to by JUNE.CHEN

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Hello June,

In general, 'there' is used to talk about the existence of something. In this case, 'it' is used to identify, i.e. the birthday is tomorrow. This rule is not always true, but 'it' is usually used for this (and not 'there').

Does that make sense to you?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team 

Submitted by dmclella on Wed, 17/08/2016 - 22:09

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Regarding 'it' and 'there', you state that English always has a subject, except for the imperative: Go away. Play it again please. But isn't 'it' a 'dummy subject'?

Hello dmclella,

Yes, these are termed 'dummy subjects'. Gramatically, they are still subjects.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

"it" is a subject when it is put in subject position. In the sentence "Play it again please", "it" is put in object position. So, we don't call it a dummy subject in this case.

Submitted by Mermaid Marina on Mon, 08/08/2016 - 13:00

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Hello, the task #2 after Grammar 'it' and 'there' suggests to complete gaps: "Can you remember the sentences from the last activity? Type in the correct words." How can I find this "last activity"?

Hello Mermaid Marina,

The 'last activity' means Task 1, which is located just above Task 2. You'll see that it uses the same sentences as you find in Task 2. If you can't see it, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by uvescos on Fri, 29/07/2016 - 02:37

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It was very easy this section in english grammar very basic. I got 10 out of 10 . Thanks a lot brithisccounsil for the resources. Bye

Submitted by faisal0901 on Tue, 26/07/2016 - 05:52

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hi, can you tell me which one is correct There are a lot of people here There is a lot of people here. There are lots of people here.

Hi faisal0901,

This is a question which we are often asked and the correct answer is 'are' for both 'a lot of' and 'lots of'. The reason that this is confusing is that many people see 'a lot of' and think it must be a singular noun because it has 'a' at the beginning. However, the phrase is simply a quantifier and the verb should agree with the noun following it. Here, 'people' is a plural noun and so the verb should also be plural. The same rule is used with other similar quantifiers and so we say:

A thousand people are waiting outside

not

A thousand people is waiting outside

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ira Roma on Thu, 21/07/2016 - 10:12

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What's correct or more common - Of course there's / it's the problem that the city has its own dialect.

Hello Ira Roma,

The first form could be correct in a variety of contexts. The second could also be correct, but would require a quite specific context.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jennifer Espinosa on Thu, 14/07/2016 - 02:03

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I don't understand the function of MUST in the sentence ''There must have been more than five hundred in the audience''. Thank you.

Hello Jennifer Espinosa,

We use 'must' in several ways. Here it is used for deduction or speculation, to mean 'I believe that there were...' or 'there surely were...'

You can read more about the use of various modal verbs for deduction on this page and this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by reyeslina on Mon, 11/07/2016 - 12:53

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Hi, I don't undestand the difference between: It isn't easy 'being' a nurse and It's stupid 'to drink and drive' When am I going to use an opinion followed by to-infinitive and by an -ing verb?

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 11/07/2016 - 15:17

In reply to by reyeslina

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Hello reyeslina,

I'm afraid there's no easy rule that will tell you when to use one form or the other – for the most part, it depends on the adjective that you use. There is a list of adjectives that are followed by infinitives on our to + infinitive page that might be a good place to start for you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by RAVINDRA260 on Thu, 07/07/2016 - 11:32

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hi this is ravindra i am new to the british council

Submitted by aditogar on Wed, 06/07/2016 - 13:27

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It's a nice to study English from this website! I have a question about the example of using 'it' to give an opinion followed by an -ing verb. It is written "It's awful driving in this heavy traffic." Could I say "It's awful to drive in this heavy traffic."?

Hello aditogar,

No, we wouldn't use the infinitive here to describe an activity which is in progress.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LuckyBC on Thu, 30/06/2016 - 17:31

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Hello again :) "with an indefinite pronoun or expressions of quantity and the to-infinitive:" "with an indefinite pronoun or expressions of quantity and an -ing verb:" When do we use "to infinitive" or "-ing verb" with "an indefinite pronoun" ?

Hello LuckyBC,

I'm afraid there's no easy rule for this – it's something you have to learn for each expression! It's a good idea to keep a vocabulary notebook where you can write down such expressions. The more you refer to the notebook and the more you use the words and expressions you write in it in your speaking and writing, the faster you'll learn them.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LuckyBC on Thu, 30/06/2016 - 16:05

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Hello I don't understand "read in the apartment" in the following sentence: "There was plenty to read in the apartment" What does it mean? Thank you very much.

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 30/06/2016 - 16:38

In reply to by LuckyBC

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Hello LuckyBC,

Here what you need to look at is 'plenty to read', i.e. the sentence has three basic parts: 'There was' + 'plenty to read' + 'in the apartment'. 'plenty' is often followed by an infinitive to indicate what there is. Here, it means that there were lots of books, magazines and other things to read in the apartment.

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dm_0975 on Thu, 30/06/2016 - 03:03

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Hello. I found a one more rule, about distances - when we talk about distance between something we should use "it is", i.e. "it is fifty miles to next town" I wonder why this rule isn't described here? Thanks.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 30/06/2016 - 06:38

In reply to by dm_0975

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Hello dm_0975,

That is an other use of 'it is...' - well done! This is something we might add to the page next time we edit it.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Liv hoang on Wed, 29/06/2016 - 03:33

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In example "it's awful driving in this heavy trafic" , in task " it's stupid to drink and drive" why not write "it's stupid drinking and driving" ? Thanks.

Hello Liv,

Some adjectives are typically followed by an -ing form, others are typically followed by a to + infinitive and yet others can be followed by both of these forms. 'stupid' is typically followed by a to + infinitive ('It's stupid to drink and drive'). I'm afraid there's no easy rule that will tell you which form is used with each adjective – it's something you have to learn about each adjective or look up in the dictionary.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by The_Unknown on Tue, 28/06/2016 - 02:46

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Generally we use "it" for non living things. In the above example " Look. It’s Sir Paul McCartney." we use "it" for Sir Paul McCartney. It is right? or we should use He for him.

Hello The_Unknown,

You can say 'He is...' but the meaning is different. When we use He's we are identifying something that we have already seen. When we use It's we are pointing out something that we have only just spotted. It's here is an example of a dummy subject used when we notice something for the first time (as it says in the information above).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Joseo2013 on Sat, 18/06/2016 - 19:44

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Great! At first I realize that my memory is worst than my English grammar. I hope they'll improve as I work in exercises. Task 2 is very smart, thanks.

Submitted by sihamAA on Thu, 16/06/2016 - 11:43

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It's very usefull to improve English grammar....thank you ;)

Submitted by Momocompanyman on Wed, 18/05/2016 - 08:07

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Thank you very much Mr Peter

Submitted by Momocompanyman on Tue, 17/05/2016 - 19:03

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Hello Sir ; I dont' understand this word in the sentence following : There’s a party at Nick’s tonight. Do you want to go? what is : Nick's ???

Hello medmomo,

Nick's here is short for Nick's house. It is quite a common way to refer to people's homes in English.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wios on Fri, 13/05/2016 - 19:48

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good evening I'm new student in the class and I managed to finish one task and now I finished the others two tasks. All what I can say is that, I think that I got what I was looking for. thank you all

Submitted by Asad on Thu, 28/04/2016 - 11:17

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Please let me describe below sentence - If you're hungry, there's some lasagne in the fridge. Why only lasagne show right answer why not other food ! Regards, Asad