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Family planning policy in China takes place against one stark fact. This is that China has 22% of the people in the world, but only 7% of the total land. To allow such a huge population to expand unchecked would soon result in it outstripping the ability of the countryside to feed it.

What is the grammatical function of the first 'it' in the second sentence in the above paragraph related to the Present participial phrase after?

To me, 'it' is the object of the verbal phrase 'result in', and the phrase after it is the apposition of 'it'.

Another possibility might be that the actual object of the phrase 'result in' is 'outstripping the ability of the countryside to feed it', and the first it is the logical subject of the phrase.

Which one of my understandings is correct?

Add information:

Except for the two understandings above, I strongly believe that the first 'it' is used as anticipatory object of 'result in' and the Present participial phrase after 'it' is the real object.

  • It's function is subject of the clause "it outstripping the ability of the countryside to feed it", which functions as complement of the preposition "in". "It" is a pro-form that is anaphoric to the noun phrase "such a huge population". – BillJ Apr 9 '18 at 7:40
  • What's the thing we start talking about in the sentence? The huge population. What could outstrip the ability of the countryside to feed? Probably the huge population! – stangdon Apr 9 '18 at 15:09
  • @BillJcould pronoun be the subject of a gerund phrase? What I have found is that only possessive could modify a gerund phrase. Is that right? – Henry Wang Apr 10 '18 at 1:08
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Another possibility might be that the actual object of the phrase 'result in' is 'outstripping the ability of the countryside to feed it', and the first it is the logical subject of the phrase.

That I think is the way to parse the construction. And I think this "it" as well as the "it" at the end of the sentence are both referring to 'China'.

  • I have added a new understanding to the original question. Could you check it? – Henry Wang Apr 9 '18 at 3:11
  • That's plain wrong, I'm afraid. What's the point of using an "anticipatory" object when the real object follows right after? When you use an "anticipatory" subject or object, there must be an intervening element between the anticipatory and the real. – JK2 Apr 9 '18 at 3:19
  • Then what is the purpose of the first it here in the sentence? I am totally lost. – Henry Wang Apr 9 '18 at 3:25
  • Or, it is the informal useage of 'it' to repersent 'its' – Henry Wang Apr 9 '18 at 3:26
  • If you do without 'it' then you have ...would soon result in outstripping the ability of the countryside..., which is just unclear about what it is that does the act of outstripping. – JK2 Apr 9 '18 at 3:30

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