Dummy pronouns (or expletive pronouns) may seem weird and confusing at first, but when you get to know them, they are not really that abnormal, and frankly, they are quite useful.
They only exist to fulfill a syntactical requirement without actually providing any meanings. It's necessary for you to know that they cannot replace a noun, phrase, or clause.
English Dummy Pronouns
The two dummy pronouns used in English are:
'It' as a Dummy Pronoun
As we said before, dummy pronouns refer to nothing. But they have practical functions. Now let's see when and how we use 'It' as a dummy pronoun.
1. Talking about Weather
Generally, when we talk about weather conditions, we use 'It' as a dummy pronoun. Let's take a look at the following examples. In these examples, 'it' is only used to talk about the weather; because without it, the sentences have no subjects.
In these examples, 'it' refers to the weather. As you know, a clause is not complete if it does not contain a subject.
2. Talking about Time and Dates
We use 'It' as a dummy pronoun to talk about time and dates. Let's see how it works:
'What time is
Here, 'it' is used to talk about time. It has been mentioned earlier that these kinds of sentences are not complete without a dummy pronoun.
'Why am I so cold?' 'Because
Here, 'it' is used to talk about a date (January).
Here, 'it' is used to talk about an event in a specific date (a birthday).
3. Talking about Distance
'It' as a dummy pronoun is also used to talk about distance. Take a look at the following examples. 'It' has no meaning in none of the sentences below and refers to nothing in particular. And it's just indicating the distance between point A and point B.
In this case, 'it' refers to the distance between Europe and China. Remember, the thing that it is referred to is not directly mentioned in the sentence.
4. 'It' as a Provisional Subject
The pronoun 'it' is used as a provisional subject (or infinitive/gerund subject), when the real subject is an infinitive or gerund. Let us see some examples:
This sentence is originally 'Beating them is impossible.' We can rephrase this sentence with the provisional pronoun 'it'.
This sentence is originally 'Finding out about your ancestors is somehow interesting.' We can rephrase this sentence with the provisional pronoun 'it'.
'Meeting you was really nice,' is replaced by using provisional pronoun 'it'.
This sentence is originally 'Living here is awful.' We can rephrase this sentence with the provisional pronoun 'it'.
5. 'It' as an Emphasizer
'It' is used as an emphasizer before a noun or a pronoun. See the examples below:
Here, in this example, we are actually emphasizing on Mike.
6. 'It' as Object
‘It’ as a dummy pronoun can either be a subject or an object. But it is mostly used as the subject. Dummy objects are sometimes used to transform transitive verbs to transitive light verbs form; e.g., make → make it, "to achieve success"; get → get it, "to comprehend".
I think I can make
As it might be clear the meaning is 'being able to arrive in time for the game'.
Can he make
Here, the speaker is asking whether he can be successful or not.
'There' as a Dummy Pronoun
'There' can also be used as a dummy pronoun and it is often called the Existential There. It is mainly used as a dummy pronoun to indicate the existence of something or someone in a particular place, time, or situation.
1. Using 'There' to Indicate Where or When
We can use the dummy pronoun 'there' as the subject of a sentence to indicate where or when something exists or happens or to merely indicate the existence or occurrence of something. Let's see some examples:
This sentence is indicating the existence of something in a particular place.
This one is indicating that something takes place at a particular time in future. It means, we can use 'there' in all three main tenses.
In these examples, we see no particular place or time. But we know something exists or will happen.
2. Using 'There' to Talk about Number or Amount
We can use 'There' as a dummy pronoun to talk about the amount or number of something. The dummy pronoun 'There' can be used in a singular or plural context. In a singular context, it takes a singular verb and a singular object (noun). And in a plural context, it takes a plural verb and a plural object (noun). Here are some examples:
A singular verb is used, here. Usually in this use of there, you can see a number or a word which refers to a particular amount.
A plural verb is used, here. Look at the term 'two' which refers to a plural noun.
The first and third examples are singular. So, they are indicating the existence of one thing or person. And the second and fourth examples are plural. Therefore, the existence of two or more things or people are being discussed.
Note that 'It' can't be plural. Therefore, the verbs and objects used in sentences with 'It' as their subjects, must also be in the singular form.
'Adverbial There' vs. 'Existential There'
Before learning about the differences between 'Adverbial There' and 'Existential There,' you should know what an adverb is.
Adverbs give further information about a verb, an adjective, another adverb, and clauses.
Now, let's find out about the differences between the two.
When we use 'There' as an adverb in a sentence, it takes the place of an adverb or an adverbial phrase. Here's an example:
I was at the party but I didn't see you
As you know, 'At the party' refers to a place, which makes it an adverbial phrase, and it is replaced by ''there''.
In this sentence, 'There' is an adverb and has taken the place of an adverb which in this case is at the end of the sentence. Let's see another example:
Here, 'there' refers indirectly to a specific place, and it is the adverbial one.
When we use 'There' as a dummy pronoun in a sentence, it adds no further information about a verb or any other part of the sentence. It just functions as the subject of a sentence and indicates the existence of something or someone or the occurrence of some events. It's time for the last example:
The first 'There' is the 'Existential There' and the second one is the 'Adverbial There.'
Dummy pronouns never replace nouns, phrases, or clauses. They are known as it and There.
|to talk about weather||
|to talk about time and dates||
|to talk about distance||
|as a provisional subject||
|to indicate where or when||
|to talk about number or amount||
|to refer to a place||
|to refer to existence||
- English Dummy Pronouns