Uses of It

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In the section on pronouns, we saw that the word it is a third person singular pronoun. However, this word also has other roles which are not related to its pronominal use. We look at some of these other uses here.   

When we talk about time or the weather, we use sentences such as:  

      What time is it?  
      It is four o'clock  
      It is snowing  
      It's going to rain  

Here, we cannot identify precisely what it refers to. It has a rather vague reference, and we call this DUMMY IT or PROP IT. Dummy it is also used, equally vaguely, in other expressions:  

      Hold it!  
      Take it easy!  
      Can you make it to my party?  

It is sometimes used to "anticipate" something which appears later in the same sentence:  

      It's great to see you  
      It's a pity you can't come to my party  

In the first example, it "anticipates" to see you. We can remove it from the sentence and replace it with to see you:  

      To see you is great  

Because of its role in this type of sentence, we call this ANTICIPATORY IT.  

See also: Cleft Sentences  

In each of the following sentences, indicate whether the highlighted word is pronoun it, dummy it, or anticipatory it

1. It won't do any good to hide from me. Pronoun it  
Dummy it  
Anticipatory it
2. I think you've broken it. Pronoun it  
Dummy it  
Anticipatory it
3. It's very kind of you to see me at short notice. Pronoun it  
Dummy it  
Anticipatory it
4. It was after midnight when I left the office. Pronoun it  
Dummy it  
Anticipatory it
5. I've had it with this place - I'm leaving! Pronoun it  
Dummy it  
Anticipatory it



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