The following sentence is from the online Longmans dictionary.

He found it increasingly difficult to read, for his eyes were failing.

Is the part of sentence "it increasingly difficult to read" a noun phrase as an object? I know the sentence is correct but what is the role of "it" and its relation with the following part of the sentence.

  • 1
    i think this is what Huddleston & Pullum call an Internal Complement Extraposition. "It" here is the dummy "it", and that is the object, not the phrase you cite. Have you studied the dummy "it"? Jul 26, 2017 at 5:19
  • @user178049 See A Student's Introduction to English, Huddleston & Pullum, P. 248. This is definitely the dummy it. Jul 26, 2017 at 5:29
  • @P.E.Dant Is it only a object or increasingly difficult to read is also a object.? Jul 26, 2017 at 18:58
  • The object is just "it". The AdjP "increasingly difficult" is objective predicative complement. The subordinate clause "to read" is extraposed object.
    – BillJ
    Jul 26, 2017 at 20:04
  • @BillJ Can you find a direct ref. in CGEL to this formation? I'm looking at p. 1408 in the 2002, and p.960, 4.3.2. Is that it? We extrapose the subordinate clause because "He found to read it increasingly difficult" positions the adjectival phrase (AdjP) apart from the clause it modifies. Jul 26, 2017 at 20:13

1 Answer 1


The “it” is being used to refer to something (an object) that was referred to earlier. In this sentence, the author is describing the object (it) in more detail than the sentence it originated in as not to create a run on sentence.

  • 1
    This is a possible meaning, with context (if the book or paper has already been mentioned). Without that context, the it is a dummy object, as mentioned in several comments.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 28, 2020 at 15:44

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