This is from a novel "The Story of Doctor Dolittle". I can't understand this usage of "with", or what "it" indicates.

(Dr. Dolittle had cured a horse because he could talk to him.)

And so it was with all the other animals that were brought to him. As soon as they found that he could talk their language, they told him where the pain was and how they felt, and of course it was easy for him to cure them.

  • 1
    dictionary.com/browse/with?r=75&src=ref&ch=dic sense 7 "In regard to"
    – James K
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 18:46
  • Thank you, but what does "it" in "it was with" indicate? Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 18:56
  • The "so it was" refers to the circumstances surrounding the horse's treatment. You can take "and so it was" to mean "and things happened in the same way". The sentence that follows summarizes the way in which all the circumstances were similar. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 20:12

3 Answers 3


It there is so-called "dummy it" and the word refers to a general existential truth.

It's hot.

It is difficult to read tiny print.

It is fun to swim.

The word "it" can function like a proxy for the existential complement:

It = to read tiny print

It = to swim.

With all could be paraphrased "in respect to each one".

And so it was with all of the new students: each received a packet of information.


The "with" here means "In regard of", see dictionary.com (sense 7)

The 'it' in "And so it was" is a "weather it". Its main function is to serve as the subject of the clause. You could say that the "it" refers to the state of being able to speak to animals.

To paraphrase, it means "And Doctor Doolittle found he was also able to speak to other animals that were brought to him." But to use a sentence like that would be repetitive. The original phrasing is more difficult, but more skillful.


Here's a simplified example.

"The lion is hungry and Alice is afraid. So it is with Bob."

There are at least two possible interpretations.

On the one hand, the word "it" might have its usual meaning, that is, the word "it" refers to the most recent subject that isn't a "he" or a "she", in this case the lion. In that case "So it is with Bob" means "Therefore the lion is with Bob".

On the other hand, the interpretation of "So it is with Bob" might be "Bob is also afraid". This is harder to analyze. One might say "it" refers to the state of affairs "that Alice is afraid", and "So it is" means "It is so" or "it is true", which means "That Alice is afraid is true" or "It is true that Alice is afraid". One might say that "with Bob" has the effect of replacing the old topic "Alice" with the new topic "Bob".

I think it is easier to learn that "So it is with (something else)" has a possible interpretation "The same thing is also true about (something else)".


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