'It' and 'There'

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Try an exercise about 'it' and 'there' here.

English sentences must have a subject (except for imperative sentences). So, if we don't have any other subject, we can use 'there' or 'it'. This is sometimes called a 'dummy subject' or an 'empty subject'.

'There' has two meanings. Its first meaning is an adverb of place. It's like 'here', except further away. We are talking about its second meaning today. 'There' can also be a pronoun that doesn't really have a meaning, but is used as the subject of a sentence when otherwise the sentence wouldn't have a clear subject. We usually use 'there' as a dummy subject with a noun or a noun phrase and the verb 'be'. It's often used to introduce new information or say that something exists. We put what we really want to talk about after the verb. We can use 'there' with any tense of 'be', including 'modal verb + be'. We can use 'there' with question tags. Traditionally, we use a plural verb after 'there' to talk about a plural noun phrase and we use a singular verb with a singular noun phrase. However, in informal speech, it's very common to use 'there's' for everything. We tend to use 'there' with indefinite noun phrases. An indefinite noun phrase uses the indefinite article (a / an) or no article or a word like some / any / no. We don't use 'the' or a proper noun (the name of a person or a place). However, we can use a definite noun phrase with 'there' when there means 'in that place'. Another exception is that we can use names or definite noun phrases with 'there' (as a dummy subject) when we are suggesting different options, and the sentence is one where we would usually need a definite article. In the example below, the person listening knows both restaurants. (See my explanations about 'a' and 'the' for more about this.) We can use 'there' with some other verbs and expressions that are followed by 'be' and a noun phrase. There is often used with numbers or amounts. There can be used with an expression of quantity followed by to + infinitive. We can use 'for + noun' to show who we're talking about. We can also use 'there' with a verb other than 'be'. This has a very literary feel. (Here, we can use definite and indefinite noun phrases.)
We also use 'it' as a dummy subject. 'It' tends to be followed by an adjective rather than a noun phrase.

'It' is used with 'be' + adj + to + infinitive. 'It' is used with 'be' + adj + verb-ing (this is considered less formal than to + infinitive, but the meaning is the same). We use 'it' with times / dates and days. We use 'it' for weather and similar conditions. We use 'it' for distances. We use 'it' with people on the telephone or with people that we can't see or when we point people out. We use 'it' with some other expressions. We can also use 'it' with passive reporting verbs. We can use 'it' with cleft sentences. Try an exercise about 'it' and 'there' here.

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'A' and 'The' Explained