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 to establish appropriate grammatical structures. English has two dummy pronouns:

How to Use Them

These dummy pronouns perform different functions in English grammar. Let us explore them.

It

Dummy pronoun 'it' can be used to:

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

Talking About the Weather

When discussing weather conditions, 'it' is commonly used as a dummy pronoun. It is important to remember that 'it' is functioning as the subject in these sentences, and without it, the sentence would 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

In order to refer to a specific date or time, we can use 'it' as a dummy pronoun. Take a 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 Distance

Sometimes 'it' can function as a dummy pronoun to describe the distance between two points. Study the following examples:

How far is it from here?

It is a long way to the top of the mountain.

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

Tip!

Another use of 'it' as a dummy pronoun is to show emphasis. To place emphasis on a particular element 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. We can use it:

  • To talk about time and place
  • To talk about number and amount

Talking About Time and Place

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

There will be a big party at our house.

Here, the sentence is about the location of an event.

There will be a funeral on Monday evening.

Warning!

Keep in mind that 'there' can also function as an adverb, which is distinct from its usage as a dummy pronoun.

There you are!

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

Talking About Number and Amount

'There' can also be used to talk about the number or amount of something. Look at the following examples:

There are five thousand dollars on that table.

There is only one black cat in this room.

Warning!

It is important to remember that the verb should agree in number (singular or plural) with its subject. Look at the following examples:

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

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