'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


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Submitted by Ravijoshi on Sun, 24/11/2013 - 17:40


feel being happy when i join with it,thanks to sanjay mandaviya

Submitted by Folasade on Thu, 21/11/2013 - 09:02


Thank you for the good job....... it is often believe that using "it" for human being is not acceptable.e.g Who is it? please buttress more on this.

Submitted by Captain ESLAM on Wed, 13/11/2013 - 12:31

Gd Day I would like to ask one question regarding for its when i was in my school i use its for animal ,tables but i saw in yr lecture i can use for Human please clarify thx

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 15/11/2013 - 13:48

In reply to by Captain ESLAM


Hello Captain ESLAM,

You are correct that we use 'it' as a pronoun with animals and objects rather than people.  This use is a little different.  The pronoun is not replacing a noun, but is used as the subject of a verb which has no obvious actor.  For example, when we talk about the weather we can say 'It's raining' or 'It's cold'.  We cannot say what 'it' is here, and in fact it is often described as a 'dummy subject'.  The use described above is similar: when we say 'It's George' the word 'it' does not refer to the person so much as function as a dummy subject.  The word 'there' has a similar role in some sentences.

I hope that helps to answer your question.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jeany on Wed, 13/11/2013 - 05:20

hi ,can you help me? I want to know whether the verb used before some is sure to be "is " or "was". waiting for answer. thanks

Hi jeany,

Verbs before the word some can be in both singular and plural forms. Note that some is a quantifier that is used with both count and uncount nouns. For example:

There is some money on the table. (money is an uncount noun)
There are some apples on the table. (apples is a plural count noun)

If this was not the question you meant to ask, please let us know.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mustafa Sayed22 on Thu, 07/11/2013 - 19:02

My first comment, thank you British Council. By the way, you doing a great job. Sincerely

Submitted by annoulaginger on Wed, 06/11/2013 - 11:48

Hello everyone. I have a question concerning this sentence: "There used to be a playground at the end of the street". If I say "There was a playground at the end of the street", is there any significant difference between "there was" and "there used to be" in this particular phrase? Thanks.

Hello annoulaginger,

In this context there is no difference in meaning: both sentences refer to a past time which is no longer true.  However, the second sentence needs a concrete time reference, either in the sentence itself (...10 years ago / ...when I was a child) or in some other part of the conversation (perhaps they are already talking about a particular time or period).  We would not use a past simple form without a time reference, whether explicit or implicit; for this we would use 'use to'.

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rama 80 on Tue, 05/11/2013 - 12:26

thanks .it is useful

Submitted by sampat on Mon, 04/11/2013 - 14:36

Hello Sir. I am a treasure of problem. But You are a Treasure of Solution. why we Love? If I reply. There haven't Answer for it. There is no Answer for it. Which is the right sentence.? Which is the wrong sentence? If wrong sentence. Why? Tell me reason.
Hello sampat, I wish I had a satisfactory answer for your first question, though fortunately you weren't really asking us that one! The correct reply is the second one: "There is no answer." "There" as a dummy subject is followed by the verb "be", and so the only time you could use "have" after "there" in this sense is as an auxiliary verb in the present perfect tense (e.g., "there have been many answers"). Best wishes, Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anhtn on Mon, 04/11/2013 - 08:52

I think the task 2 is quite difficult to do :(

Submitted by sandy89 on Tue, 29/10/2013 - 18:46

this site is really very helpfull.. as im new here today i learned a lot

Submitted by lee620 on Mon, 28/10/2013 - 06:35

i couldn't understand the fourth and the seventh in task2,i think i did right and also i checked last task .but there show me i did wrong in task 2.
Hi lee620, Have you tried pressing the "Finish" button instead of "Check Answers"? The Finish button will show you the correct answers, and I reckon that will help you understand. If not, please don't hesitate to ask us again about it. Best wishes, Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bpawanchand on Sat, 26/10/2013 - 15:05

Didn't expect, the second task was so surprising.

Submitted by jmslayer on Sat, 26/10/2013 - 02:06

Thank you Mr. Adam I have learned a lot from all of you here More power to the British Council for giving us this kind of opportunity and at the same this website are free of charge so I decided to continues my learning activities here together with my family and all member here all over the world. I will put it into my heart and mind that you and your team are very very kind and tireless to help and to improve our English pronunciation my greatest sincerity to thanks to all of you. More power British team hope that you have a lot of time to continue this kind of activities. May God bless all of you here.

Submitted by Luc LENGE ASSOSA on Fri, 25/10/2013 - 20:20

It's just great!

Submitted by jmslayer on Fri, 25/10/2013 - 10:27

Thank you British council for giving me enough of space here in your column to give some aspiration to the newly members I would like to share my thoughts here I've Got passed my IELTS Examination last December I would like to give a little inspiration all of you here I've got 5 in all band score because of this very helpful website like this. enjoy your moments here while in practice to learn something all of you Thanks and more power to the staff of British council
Hello, Congratulations! I'm really glad to hear that LearnEnglish helped you with your IELTS exam. It's great to have you here encouraging the other users. Best wishes, Adam The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Seng Poline on Thu, 24/10/2013 - 11:37

i'm so excited with this website it's very useful
Hello Seng Poline, It's great to hear that you think so! I wish you many happy hours using the materials here and improving your English. Remember that you can always use the comments sections on each page if you would like to ask us a question or to comment on anything. Best wishes, Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alina123 on Wed, 23/10/2013 - 09:43

What's the point of Task 2? I don't understand why I have to memorize some words/phrases to learn when to use it and there.

Submitted by olgaong on Tue, 22/10/2013 - 12:33

Finally!! i got a website that help me to improve my English . thank you British Council :)

Submitted by ouahab abdelbasset on Mon, 21/10/2013 - 22:19

Thanks for this learning English program .It's very good program

Submitted by Evangelina Trevizo on Thu, 17/10/2013 - 01:48

hi... i just found a little mistake on the question number 4 (Don't forget. It's [your] mum's birthday tomorrow.) And when we completed the sentences in the 2nd test, it showed wrong when you add the word (your).Indicated the right answer is(Don't forget. It's mum's birthday tomorrow)... And thanks is very nice to have this type of support for learning English...
Hi Evangelina, Thanks for your kind words and especially for telling us about this! We'll correct that as soon as we can. Best wishes, Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Saltosh on Tue, 08/10/2013 - 16:37

I am very grateful ! Thank you very much ))))

Submitted by mansooransari777 on Fri, 20/09/2013 - 17:08


Task 2 was very difficult for me.. huh

Submitted by na_poh on Thu, 05/09/2013 - 14:59


Hello everybody!)The Last exercise isn't correct in point number nine. They pointed out that the need to 3 words and actually do not have enough 4. If I'm wrong please explain.

Hello ba_poh,

Thank you for pointing this out.  If you look at the earlier comments on this exercise (a day or two ago) you'll see that you're not the only person to spot this!

I'll pass the information on to our editors and we'll update the instructions.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MayelaM on Tue, 03/09/2013 - 02:34



Is there any place where I can read about the proper usage of nothing, anything, something ?  Someone, somebody, anybody? Affirmative, negative and interrogative sentences...

Taking for example the phrase below, and assuming they are well written, can we say it is expressing the same idea, just a different writing of the phrase

There is not anything but this vs There is nothing but this

Can we say "There is not anything = There is nothing" ?


Hello MayelaM,

I think this page might be what you're looking for.

All three of the alternatives you suggest are correct and have the same meaning, though we could usually contract 'there is not anything' to 'there isn't anything' - it sounds much more natural that way.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for the reply, after reading the page suggested it is still not cleare to me... May you answer to me the following question regarding the proper usage of those words

a) When do you use no one vs nobody?  Both are for persons, is it the same to say no one came that nobody came?

b) Did no one come?  Yes, no one came vs Did no one come? No, anybody came  Which is the correct structure for the interrogative form... Examples will be helpful

c) May I say that all of the following are correct as all of them are pronouns?

nobody, no one or nothing --> express negative event by themselves and can not be combined with any other negative word

everybody  everyone  everything  anybody  anyone  anything somebody  someone  something --> express affirmative event  and can be used with a negative form

d) When do you use somebodies?  Is this a noun instead of a pronoun?  An example would be appreciated as well.

Hello Mayela,

Can you please ask questions about indefinite pronouns on the relevant page? That way, other users will be able to learn from any answers to your question.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mahmood Sahra Navard on Tue, 03/09/2013 - 00:42



I want to say that I saw one mistake in task 2,  Question 9.

people  has to know that they have to write 4 word  not three words.

I wrote that I saw some mistake but I don't mean that this website it's not good to learn English.

If I have mistake in my comment,I would like to tell know.

Just let me know Learn English team Please.

Hello Mahmood,

You are quite right.  I'll forward it on to the editors for you.

Many thanks,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aung Thet Naing on Wed, 28/08/2013 - 14:04



What kind of 'it' would be in this sentence 'The adverse conditions of the moon would make it very difficult for a visitor from the earth'?

I think it can be the object and the meaning is 'the adverse conditions of the moon would make a visitor from the earth very difficult'. I want to know exactly how it works. Thank you very much.

Submitted by Etulino on Mon, 12/08/2013 - 17:45


Hi everyone!

I have a question about animals. I saw a dog, it was chasing a car. My friend has a cat, she likes to sleep in the sink. - Which one is correct? Can we use he/she when talking about animals?

Hi Etulino,

I have a dog and two cats and I always say 'he' (for my dog and one cat) or 'she' (for the other cat)!  I think if we know the gender of the animal, especially if it is our pet, then we usually use 'he' or 'she', but if we do not then we use 'it'.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ANOMA SENANAYAKE on Thu, 08/08/2013 - 12:40


 Hi, Can I use this English grammar file without internet connection ?

If so pls explain. Thank you so much.


I'm afraid the activities require an internet connection but it's possible to read the grammatical information offline if your browser has an 'offline browsing' capability (Firefox, for example, has this capability), or can save a page as a web archive (Safari can do this).

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jesi7358 on Tue, 30/07/2013 - 10:37


It is good idea to learn from an original source.

Submitted by Lamis abozeid on Tue, 30/07/2013 - 05:11

Hi everyone Is there a difference between using "there is" & "there's" Thanks so much

Hi Lamis abozeid,

The meaning does not change but the contracted form (there's) is a little less formal.  The contracted form is normal in speech, unless it is a very formal situation, whereas we tend to use the full form in writing unless we are writing an email to a friend or someone we know well.  The same is true of all contractions (don't v do not, shouldn't vs should not etc).

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kosduong on Fri, 26/07/2013 - 09:52


Dear All,

In the 7th sentence of the exercises why is the answer " there is an interesting museum" is incorrect?

Anyway, I love this site and read it everyday. Thank you for doing this.