Dummy Pronouns for intermediate learners

Dummy pronouns function grammatically the same as other pronouns, except they do not refer to a person or thing like normal pronouns do.

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"Dummy Pronouns" in English Grammar

What Are Dummy Pronouns?

Dummy Pronouns have no actual meaning in a sentence and they cannot replace nouns, clauses, and phrases. However, they are very common among native speakers and are used for appropriate grammatical structures. We have two dummy pronouns in English:

How to Use Them

These dummy pronouns perform different tasks in English grammar. Let us learn about what they do:

It

  • Talking about the weather
  • Talking about date and time
  • Talking about the distance

Talking About the Weather

When we want to talk about weather conditions, we mostly use 'it' as a dummy pronoun. Please note that 'it' here is used as the subject so without it, the sentence will be incomplete. Take a look at the examples below:

Is it raining already?

I think it will snow tonight.

As you can see, 'it' is used to talk about the weather condition.

Talking About Date and Time

When we want to refer to a specific date or time, we can use 'it' as a dummy pronoun. Carefully look at the examples below:

It's my birthday tomorrow.

A : Is it 3 o'clock?

B : No, it's a quarter to 3.

Talking About the Distance

Sometimes we can use 'it' as a dummy verb to refer to the distance from one point to another. Study the following examples carefully:

How far is it from here?

I hope it doesn't get too close to me.

As you can see, the sentence will be incomplete if we remove 'it'.

Tip!

Another one of the uses of 'it' as a dummy pronoun is to function as an emphasizer. When we want to emphasize something in a sentence, we can use this dummy pronoun. Pay attention to the following examples:

It was you who stepped on my shoe.

It was that dirty little cat that broke my vase.

There

There is another dummy pronoun that is used to show the existence of someone or something. It has no specific functions and adds no meaning to the sentences. Let us see where we can use it:

  • Talking about time and place
  • Talking about number and amount

Talking About Time and Place

In English, when we want to talk about a specific time or place, we can use 'there'. Look at the examples below:

There will be a big party tomorrow night.

Here, the sentence is about the location of a person.

There will be a funeral on Monday evening.

Warning!

Be careful that we can also use 'there' as an adverb and it is different from it functioning as a dummy pronoun. look at the example below:

There you are!

As you can see, the sentence was 'you are there' which was changed for more emphasis.

Talking About Number and Amount

We can also use 'there' to talk about the amount of something. Look at the following examples:

There are five thousand dollars on that table.

There is only one black cat in this filthy room.

Warning!

Always remember that the verb changes according to the singularity or plurality of the subjects. Look at the following examples:

There are seven dogs here. (Not there is seven dogs….)

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