skip navigation

It Subject Clauses

Shifting focus to another sentence part

Fred Armisen and Barak Obama
Comedian Fred Armisen /Barack Obama
 

 

That to It  Subject Clauses

SUBJECT   THAT–CLAUSE    

To state one's opinion about a situation, a that- or wh- clause (the situation) is placed in the subject position followed by a static verb and the opinion (an adjective phrase or a noun phrase).                                                  

SUBJECT:  CLAUSE VERB + COMPLEMENT
DECLARATIVE CLAUSE OPINION

That Fred is a funny comedian 

is obvious to all. (Adj)

That they look alike

is clear to everyone. (Adj)

That he can imitate Barack Obama

surprises¹ everyone.

That the President thinks he is funny

is a pleasant surprise.   (NP)

That Fred can do such a good impression

is a wonder.   (NP)

That Fred retired from SNL

is a pity.  (NP)

What he said

was funny(Adj)

What inspires him

is a mystery. (NP)

OBJECT  IT…THAT

To switch the focus to the speaker's opinion, it is placed at the beginning of the clause followed by the opinion, and the that- or wh- clause is placed at the end of the clause. It serves as its placeholder.

SUBJECT:   IT + COMPLEMENT MOVED: CLAUSE
OPINION SITUATION

It is obvious to all
       'It' holds the subject place for clause at the end.

that he is a funny comedian.

It is clear to everyone

that they look alike.

It surprises everyone

that he can imitate Barack Obama.

It is a pleasant surprise

that the President thinks he is funny.

It is a wonder

that Fred can do such a good impression.

It is a pity

that Fred retired from SNL².

It was funny

what he said.

It is a mystery

what inspires him.

 

¹Other similar verbs:  amaze, astonish, bewilder, confound, delight, disappoint, impress, please, satisfied, startle, stupefy, overwhelm
²SNL – "Saturday Night Live" a comedy show that has launched several comedy stars.
declarative clause –

Clause; Subject / Predicate; Finite / Nonfinite; NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Compcomplement; Det – determiner; Adj –  adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; Sub – Subordinator

Related pages:  There–existenceIt / There Pronouns (weather, time, existence)  and  It / This Reference (previously mentioned reference)  It Clefts  (extraposition)

 

 

 

 

It Clauses

Moving heavier content to the end

 

 

 

SUBJECT CLAUSE

A clause may be placed at the beginning of the clause followed by a verb and its complement (predicate).  However, long or complicated items are often put towards the end of a sentence.

1. CLAUSE +  [BE] + ADJECTIVE

To do the work this way is easy.   
The "heavy content" in the sentence comes first.    

Driving all day was hard.

That he was lying was clear.

2. CLAUSE + TAKES  X AMOUNT

Boiling an egg takes three minutes.  (gerund)

To house-train a puppy takes (requires) a lot of newspaper.

To succeed takes hard work.

3. CLAUSE + MAKES

Eating chocolate makes me happy.

To save energy makes sense.

Where I turn makes no difference.

4. CLAUSE + EMOTIONAL STATIC VERB

That you would say such a thing pleases me.

That she is still in love amazes us.

That you are unhappy surprises me. 

That he is regretful disappoints me.

5. CLAUSE + VERB

¹That she might change her mind occurred to me.

¹That she came along by chance happened.

6. CLAUSE + NOUN

That he escaped alive is a miracle.

That world is round is a fact.

That you couldn't come is a pity.  (unfortunate)

That you couldn't come is a shame. (unfortunate) 

IT  AS THE SUBJECT

It serves as a placeholder for the subject so that the heavier part or deemphasized  part of the sentence can be moved to the end of the sentence.                                                              

IT [BE] ADJECTIVE

It  is easy to do the work this way. 
'It' holds the subject place for clause at the end.     The "heavy content" comes last.

It was hard driving all day.

It was clear (that) he was lying.
 

IT TAKES  X

It takes three minutes to boil an egg(gerund→infinitive)

It takes a lot of newspapers to house-train a puppy.

It takes hard work to succeed.
 

IT MAKES

It makes me happy to eat chocolate.

It makes sense to save energy.

It makes no difference where I turn.  

IT (STATIVE VERB) – THAT

It pleases me that you would say such a thing.

It amazes us that she is still in love.

It surprises me that you are unhappy.

It disappoints me that he is regretful.  

IT – VERB – THAT

It occurred to me that she might change her mind.

It happened that she came along by chance.  

IT [BE] NOUN

It's a miracle (that) he escaped alive.

It's a fact (that) the world is round.

It's a pity (that) you couldn't come.

It's a shame (that) he couldn't come.

 

¹ These particular intransitive verbs (occur and happen) may be used in this way.

 

 

 

 

It / There Subjects

"Dummy Pronouns"

 

 

 

Dummy Pronouns —  It  / There

IT

It, a "dummy pronoun" with no particular meanin, takes the subject or object position in statements about weather, time, place, condition, and a few other expressions.

SUBJECT VERB + COMPLEMENT

It

is raining.  (weather)

It

is four o'clock. (time)

It

has been a week since he called. (time)

It

is noisy in that room. (weather)

It

would be wonderful if you could come to dinner. (condition)

It

is a shame that you can't come to dinner. (expression)

I

don't like it when you call me by my nickname. (expression)

I

find² it odd that he hasn't called yet. (expression)

THERE

There is a "dummy pronoun" that has no particular meaning and holds the subject position. There refers to the existence of something (somewhere).

SUBJECT VERB + COMPLEMENT

There 

are several funny comedians.
*Several funny comedians are.

There 

was no one. 
*No one was.

There 

was no one there¹.  (location)
 *There/ here (location) was no one.

³ There 

was no one in the theater. 
In the theater was no one. / No one was in the theater.

³ There 

is a friend of yours at the front door.
A friend of yours is at the front door.

³ There 

were in my family twenty-eight cousins. 
Twenty-eight cousins were in my family.

There 

seems to be a problem.

There 

appears to have been a mistake made. 

 

¹ there (pronoun) "existence" / there (adverb / noun) "location"
² A few other verbs in this pattern: accept (as), believe, consider, declare, find, make see (as)
³ Displaced subject – If the sentence can be reworded without there, then the subject is being displaced (moved to the end of the clause).  There was a friend at the door. → A friend was at the door.  Some sentences cannot be reworded and require there There were a lot of people. / *A lot of people were.  (The verb "be" cannot occur without a complement.)

 

Terms: Clause; Subject / Predicate; Finite / Nonfinite; NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Compcomplement; Det – determiner; Adj –  adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; Sub – Subordinator

 

Related pages:  There–existenceIt / There Pronouns (weather, time, existence)  and  It / This Reference (previously mentioned reference)  It Clefts  (extraposition)

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

ERROR SOLUTION

That you are unhappy *seems to me.  (awkward, ungrammatical)

It seems to me that you are unhappy.

That he is regretful *appears to me. (awkward, ungrammatical)

It appears to me that he is regretful.  

It ashamed that he did not join us for dinner.

It is a shame that he did not join us for dinner.  
(The verb is "be" not "ashamed".)

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional and Linguistic Description

Advanced

 

 

TRADITIONAL & ESL DESCRIPTION LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

"Often an infinitive phrase is used with it as the subject of the sentence. The word it refers to and has the same meaning as the infinitive phrase at the end of the sentence."  It is difficult to learn a second language. — UUEG 322

That clauses commonly follow adjectives in sentences that begin with it + be It's amazing that…  — UUEG 253

 

 

It as 'empty' subject; referring to time or weather: it's ten o'clock. It's sunny. (Swan 428.8)

It is impossible for me to… (Swan 291.4)

Preparatory subject (Swan 446)

  • When subject of a clause is an infinitive expression, we prefer to reword it with a 'preparatory subject' (long or complicated items are often put towards the end of a sentence –512) : It's nice to talk to you.
  • When subject of a clause is a clause: It's possible that we'll be late.
  • When subject of a clause is a gerund: It's nice seeing you.
  • It takes + infinitive
  • It looks/ seems / is as if…
  • It was my wife who… (cleft sentences)

Preparatory object (Swan 447)

  • When object of a clause is an infinitive expression: We find it difficult to… / The head make it difficult to… / We thought it strange to…
  • When object of a clause is clause:  We love it when… (when clause) / I take it that… (that clause) / We would appreciate it if… (if clause)
  • When object of a clause is gerund:  We found it strange being…
  • With owe to and leave to: We owe it to our parents' generation. / We'll leave it to you to decide.

Special uses of it. (Huddleston 17 §2.5)

  • Extraposition and impersonal It It's amazing that they are done already. / It seems they are done already. / It seems as if they are already done.
  • The it-cleft construction. It was your father who was driving.
  • Weather, time, place, condition. It's rainy.  It can be very rainy in May.
  • It as subject with other predicative NPs.  It was a good idea.
  • It in idioms.  How's it going? / Beat it. Hold it! / Let's make the best of it.

 

The extraposition and existential constructions  (Huddleston 4 §3.2.2-3)

  • That he loved her was obvious. [canonical]
  • It was obvious that he loved her. [extraposition construction]
  • Several ideas are on the table. [canonical]
  • There are several ideas on the table. [existential constructions]

 

The existential construction   Bare vs. Extended  (Huddleston 16 § 6.2.1)

Content clauses in construction with it   A clause with a that-clause as a subject is more likely to occur in extraposed position. (Huddleston 11 §4.3) 

  • That he loved her was obvious. (less common)
  • It was obvious that he loved her. (more common)

 

Extraposed subject.  It is important that you lock up carefully. 

  • Subjects of extraposition and existential constructions are it and there.
  • They are dummy elements without any real semantic content.
  • It is the extraposed subject and the that-clause is the displaced subject.

  (Huddleston 14 §7.1)

Extraposed object.   (Huddleston 11 §4.3.2)

  • I find that he tried to take my dog surprising.
  • I find it surprising that he tried to take my dog.

Other verbs in this pattern: accept (as), believe, consider, declare, find, make see (as), etc.

 

Related pages:  There–existenceIt / There Pronouns (weather, time, existence)  and  It / This Reference (previously mentioned reference)  It Clefts  (extraposition)

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

It / That / What / There

movie time
 

 

Select the a pronoun to begin the clause.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 1-10" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

1.

2.
 

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin
 

 

is the sentence correct or incorrect?

  1. Select a response correct or incorrect.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 11-15" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

11.
Its wonderful to watch an old Charlie Chaplin movie.

     

12.
It's make no difference how many times you see him.  He was funny!

       

13.
I believe that it takes a lot of talent to do what he did.

     

14.
It is difficulty to make people laugh in silent film.

     

15.
It a pity that some of his films have been lost.
pity (n.) –  a loss, a disappointment

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

"Pie in the Face" Comedy 

Pie in the face
 

 

Begins the sentence with "It".

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 16-20" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

Slapstick is a type of comedy with slips, falls, embarrassing situations and throwing pies in each other's faces (as found in Charlie Chaplin films.)

 

16.
What we saw was really funny.


17.
That he tripped and fell was unexpected.


18.
To make some people laugh only takes a pie in the face.


19.
Funny dialog is needed to make me laugh.


20.
What matters is that we laugh each day.