ESL – Using ‘it’ or ‘there’ as the sentence subject – Part 1

11 April

Using ‘it’ or ‘there’ as the sentence subject   –   Part 1


English clauses always have a subject:

His father has just retired. Was a teacher. > He was a teacher.
I’m waiting for my wife. 
Is late. > She is late.
Look at the time! 
Is half past two.> It’s half past two.

except for the imperative (see more)

Go away.
Play it again please.

If we have no other subject we use There or It.

Part 1    There

We use there as a dummy subject with part of the verb be followed by a noun phrase. (see Clauses, sentences and phrases):

• to introduce new topic:
There is a meeting this evening. It will start at seven.
There has been an accident. I hope no one is hurt.

• with numbers or quantities:
There was a lot of rain last night.
There must have been more than five hundred in the audience.

• to say where something is:
There used to be a playground at the end of the street.
There are fairies at the bottom of the garden.
I wonder if there will be anyone at home.

• with an indefinite pronoun or expressions of quantity and the to-infinitive:
There is nothing to do in the village.
There was 
plenty to read in the apartment
There was 
nothing to watch on television.
There is 
a lot of work to do

If we want to show the subject of the to-infinitive we use for:
There is nothing for the children to do in the village.
There was plenty 
for us to read in the apartment
There was nothing 
for them to watch on television.
There is a lot of work 
for you to do.

• with an indefinite pronoun or expressions of quantity and an -ing verb:
There is someone waiting to see you.
There were 
a lot of people shouting and waving.

We use a singular verb if the noun phrase is singular:
There is a meeting this evening. It will start at seven.
There was a lot of rain last night.
There is someone waiting to see you.

We use a plural verb if the noun phrase is plural:
There are more than twenty people waiting to see you.
There were some biscuits in the cupboard.
There were a lot of people shouting and waving.

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