Lesson 13. Dummy Subject: Existence in English
One of the characteristics of English complete sentences is the requirement of a subject. However, if the subject is not available in the sentence, ‘there is, there are and it is’ are used to express that something exists in English. They are also well known as a dummy subject or an empty subject.
There is vs There are
Do you still remember the previous lesson about the verb to be is and are in English? In a similar way, ‘there is’ comes after a singular noun, while ‘there are’ comes after a plural noun. Normally, ‘there is’ or ‘there are’ sentence when the sentence contains a clear subject. You can use there is or there are for:
Introducing a new topic
There is a dog.
There are dogs.
[subjects: a dog, dogs].
Expressing numbers or quantities
There is a little water in the glass.
There are more than ten people coming to my house.
[subjects: a little water, more than ten people].
- The single use of ‘there’ refers to an adverb of place, which is the opposite of here.
- The single use of the verb to be – is, am, are – are always used before a noun.
In informal writings and conversations, there is can be used to refer plural nouns as well.
There’s five places more to visit.
There’s lots of works to do.
[subjects: places, works].
You can express them in past tense as well. Try there was and there were!
There was a book on the table last night.
There were houses on this street before.
[subjects: a book, houses].
The pronoun ‘it’ in English is always paired with the verb to be ‘is’ in a present tense. ‘It is’ tends to be followed by the adjectives rather than the nouns. In contrast with ‘there is’ and, ‘there are’, ‘it is’ is used when the subject of the sentence is not clear. For example, you can use ‘it is’ to express natural occurrences, such as weather, time, and distance.
It is snowing.
It is windy.
It is Sunday.
It is 5 p.m.
It is five kilometers away from here.
It is three meters above the sky.
You can use ‘it is’ to give opinions.
It is a wonderful house.
It is a nice idea.
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