1

Consider this two sentences:

  1. It was an honor to have been chosen for the award.

  2. It already had been mentioned they are going to make the second season of the series.

In these sentences, 'it' is being used as the subject of the verb. Can you explain me why we use 'it' as the subject of the verb.

  • Because the original subject of the verb has been postponed ("to have been...award" and "[that] they are going...series" are the postponed subjects. If you move the subject to the end of the sentence, you need a dummy subject in the beginning. I'm not sure why you added the "passive voice" tag, because the question seem to be unrelated to the passive voice. – oerkelens Jun 6 '17 at 12:21
  • If we want to use a dummy subject, why we only consider using 'it'? Can't we replace with any other subject? – Yasmika Saubhagya Jun 6 '17 at 12:39
  • I think the reason that the OP mentioned passive voice is that the use of 'if' allows us to not specify the person who said/did something. For example, in the second sentence, we do not need to answer the question, 'who mentioned that they are going to make the second season of the series'. The same sentence in the active voice would have been, 'They had mentioned that they are going to make the second season of the series'. Writing 'they' in the beginning is avoided by the use of 'it'. – satnam Jun 6 '17 at 12:40
  • As oerkelens says, "it" is dummy element, serving the syntactic purpose of filling the subject position. It is not replaceable by any other word. This kind of construction is called extraposition. – BillJ Jun 6 '17 at 12:46
  • "Can't we replace with any other subject?" Try and find out. What alternative subject could you think of? The it in these sentences is very similar to the it in it's raining. – oerkelens Jun 6 '17 at 12:52
3

@oerkelens is right. The subject has been moved to the final position in order to avoid using it as a subject; it's pretty awkward to use a clause as a subject. Compare,

1a. It was an honor to have been chosen for the award. (it as the subject)

1b. [To have been chosen for the award] was an honor (infinitive clause as the subject)

2a. It already had been mentioned they are going to make the second season of the series. (it as the subject)

2b. [That they are going to make the season of the series] had already been mentioned (A finite that-clause as the subject).

The process involved here is called extraposition. When you extrapose the clauses to the final position, you need a dummy subject (it) as a placeholder to fill the empty slot in the subject position.

  1. To have been chosen for the award was an honor.
  2. __ was an honor to have been chosen for the award. (Extraposed infinitive clause).
  3. [It] was an honor to have been chosen for the award. (A dummy subject is added).

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