Even if determinism isn't true for everything that happens—even if some things just happen without being determined by causes that were there in advance—it would still be very significant if everything we did were determined before we did it. However free you might feel when choosing

[Thomas Nagel - What does it all mean? p.52]

What does the word "it" mean?


1 Answer 1


'It' is a dummy subject. English clauses which are not imperatives must have a subject. Sometimes we need to use a ‘dummy’ or ‘empty’ or ‘artificial’ subject when there is no subject attached to the verb, and where the real subject is somewhere else in the clause.

Dummy subjects (Cambridge Dictionary)

  • Could I replace "if" with "that" without changing its meaning?
    – XVI
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 13:37
  • 1
    @XVI Not in this case. That is a pronoun that must relate to something previously-mentioned. You can, however, replace it with this: "This would still be very significant ...".
    – Andrew
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 15:27

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