“IT” AS A SUBJECT
The use of it allows us to put the topic of a sentence at the end, and places more emphasis on what you want to talk about. Compare:
Doing this kind of work and having a family is difficult. (emphasis on “difficult”)
It‘s difficult doing this kind of work and having a family. (emphasis on “doing this kind of work and having a family”)
Here is a summary of the uses of it as a subject:
|to focus on an adjective||It is important to understand the differences between it and there.
It is necessary to call his parents.
|to talk about the weather||It is snowing.
It has been cloudy.
(BUT there has been a lot of rain)
|to say the time, days and dates, distances
|What time is it? – It is 5 o’clock.
What day is it? – It is the 8th of July. It‘s my birthday. It‘s Monday.
It‘s only 50 kilometers to Birmingham. It isn’t a long way.
|to introduce an action or to identify people||It is going to last forever. It takes me one hour to get home.
It‘s James here. It‘s Joe out there.
|to describe a place||It is calm and beautiful in the mountains.|
|to comment on a fact||It is amazing how you can keep all that stuff in your head.
It was boring.
It‘s lucky that we found this hotel.
We can use the structure it + be + adjective (+ that) with a variety of adjectives (e.g. awful, amazing, bad, funny, essential, possible, good, interesting, likely, obvious, sad, strange, surprising, true, wonderful) to give opinions about situations:
It is great that we can talk about our feelings.
It was odd that you were alone in that part of town.
It is unbelievable you can stand on your head!
We can use the structure it + be + adjective/noun + to infinitive to describe how we feel about a situation:
It’s nice to see you again.
It wasn’t possible (for me) to get tickets for Sunday.
It would be difficult (for us) to find a new assistant.
It’s a pity to grow old without any memories.
It wasn’t a mistake to change my course.
It has been a pleasure to work with you and your excellent team.
Note that it + be + adjective/noun + -ing form is also possible:
It’s great seeing you again.
It’s been a pleasure attending your class.
It’s been a real treat getting to know you and your family.
We use the structure it + be + of me/him/her, etc. + to infinitive to describe someone’s behavior:
It was kind of you to help me.
It is so sweet of you to take her out.
“THERE” AS A SUBJECT
Here is a summary of the uses of there as a subject (note that there + a form of be can be used in most tenses and forms):
|to say that something exists||If there is justice in this world, we will find it.
There is a hospital right down the street.
Is there a good film on?
There used to be a supermarket here.
There is something I need to tell you.
|to mention the presence of something/somebody
(we can use there for a number of people too)
|There is a stranger at the door.
There are 3 of us in the room.
|to say something has happened or will happen||There has been a scandal.
There is going to be a festival.
There aren’t going to be any more classes this week.
|with modal verbs to express possibility and probability||There should be no privileges without responsibilities.
There may be life on other planets.
There might be an extra class for beginners next week.
|with seems and appears||There seems to be a problem.
There appears to be a misunderstanding.
|to explain a problem||There seems to be a problem with the space capsule.|
Remember! We use there + is (not there + are) with a list that starts with a singular noun:
On the table there is a pencil, a pen and some papers.
There were 5 students and 3 teachers in the room.
In spoken and informal English, there and the auxiliary (a verb that gives grammatical information not given by the main verb of a sentence) are usually contracted: there is → there’s; there would be → there’d be; there will be → there’ll be.
Complete the sentences with there or it:
- ______ is a new cinema in town. ______ has got 6 screens.
- ______ is a sauna and a small gym at the hotel.
- If ______ is any chance of you coming, let us know.
- Once upon a time ______ were 3 pigs.
- ______ is some oil in the garage.
- ______ was a lot of noise outside.
- ______ is an interesting skyscraper in London. ______ is called the Swiss Re building. If you are in the City of London, ______ is easy to see this building as it is much higher than most of the others around it.
- ______ might be interesting to invite him to the show.
- ______ is a hotel and ______ are 3 shops nearby.
- ______ is very beautiful in this part of the country.
- ______ have been some problems at work.
- ______ might be a lot of traffic.
- ______ is a long way from the station to the hotel.
- ______ won’t be a sunny day tomorrow.
- ______ has been an absolute pleasure working with you.
Answer key: 1. there; it 2. there 3. there 4. there 5. there 6. there 7. there; it; it 8. It 9. there; there 10. it 11. there 12. there 13. it 14. it 15. it
Materials used: “Grammar and Vocabulary for First Certificate” by L.Prodromou, “My GrammarLab intermediate” by M.Foley and D.Hall, “Oxford Living Grammar pre-intermediate” by M.Harrison