4

In the following sentence, it seems it should end up with "like it" or "like there". Why the both of "it" and "there" have come together?

I have been to Washington several times, and I like it there.

  • Maybe this paraphrase helps? The situation or the conditions in that place(Washington) – dan Dec 24 '18 at 6:21
  • Note that ending the sentence with "like there" would be ungrammatical in this context. Adverbs cannot be standalone arguments to transitive verbs. Like always requires two nominal arguments. – lo tolmencre Dec 24 '18 at 16:34
11

In the sentence, it does not refer to Washington. So, you shouldn't be interpreting the sentence in this way:

✘ I've been to Washington several times, and I like (Washington) there.

Instead, it is a dummy pronoun. From Wikipedia:

A dummy pronoun, also called an expletive pronoun or pleonastic pronoun, is a pronoun used to fulfill the syntactical requirements without providing explicit meaning.

In the sentence, it does have some meaning, but it's not exactly defined. For a native speaker, the meaning of the sentence is generally the same as:

✔ I've been to Washington several times, and I like (something that exists) there.

A conversation could go something like this:

"I've been to Washington, and I like it there."
"Oh, really? What's there that you like?"

The use if it is non-specific. It refers to something, but the sentence doesn't clarify what it is. However, it does say that it exists there in Washington.

There is also a contrast between here and there (and anywhere else):

I hate (the weather) here in Antarctica, but I like (it) there in Washington.

The use of (it) has changed from a dummy pronoun to a referential pronoun because the first part of the sentence has actually made it clear what (it) is that's being referenced. But the important part is the contrast between here and there.


Compare this with the sentence in which there has been omitted:

I've been to Washington several times, and I like it.

In this sentence, no dummy pronoun is used. It is a referential pronoun that refers to Washington.

Although awkward, the sentence could be rephrased in the following way:

I've been to Washington several times, and I like Washington.

A similar conversation could be constructed around this:

"I've been to Washington, and I like it."
"Oh, really? What do you like about Washington?"

Note the specific difference between this conversation and the earlier one.

Whereas it in the first conversation refers to something completely undefined (aside from its existence in Washington), it in this conversation refers to something about Washington itself.


  • 7
    I feel like this answer might be a bit confusing to some people - it makes it sound as if the speaker is actually referring to something concrete (like a specific restaurant), but not saying what it is. The "it" in "I like it there" isn't a specific thing that's there, it's the same "it" as in "it's raining", or "it's five o'clock". It just refers to "the state of the universe". – Jack M Dec 24 '18 at 9:54
  • 4
    @JackM I disagree. The speaker is referring to something specific, they just haven't said what it is. If I say I like it there, I definitely do have something in mind about what I like. Otherwise, I'd simply say, "I get a good feeling when I think about the place; I have no idea why . . ." – Jason Bassford Dec 24 '18 at 10:00
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    + for Jack M. As a native speaker, "I like it there" means no more and no less than "I like being there". There is no objective referent, no landmark or venue or weather, being referred to. One might still ask "What do you like about it" and there could be specific answers (the museums, the architecture, the nightlife) but I don't believe we should consider any of them to be the "it". – CCTO Dec 24 '18 at 15:28
  • I am immensely taken aback by the fact that you included the correct definition of what a pleonastic / dummy pronoun is, yet immediately managed to follow the inclusion of that definition with absurd claims like “it does have some meaning [...] (something that exists) [...] it refers to something.” It has no meaning besides fulfilling a syntactical requirement of English; it refers to nothing. – Ethan Bierlein Dec 25 '18 at 0:07
  • @JackM Or, one could take "it" to mean "the way the things are" in that context. "I like the way the things are there". The same idea as "the state of the universe", just in not-so-grand words. – Joker_vD Dec 25 '18 at 0:40
4

There are, I think, two ways to look at this:

  1. There is a concept or idea, something like [x] makes me happy or I am content with [x], which started off being spelled / pronounced I like [it], and then got moved into a (grammatically) different situation where "I like it" is really "I am happy", so if you read it simply as though it says …and I am happy there you'll see the it as vestigial (like an appendix) and not really part of the meaning.

  2. The it can be like the it in it is raining, i.e. a sort of global, catch-all reference to the milieu of the speaker, i.e. I moved to [place] and conditions there are great for me.

Personally I suspect both are true.

2

Following is your answer which I found on web. "The use of the pronoun 'it' is called an 'empty' object/subject. We use it as a meaningless subject with expressions that refer to time, weather, temperature, distances, or just the current situation. In the sentence "I like it here", 'it' refers to the situation or the conditions. For example: It's ten o'clock. It's Monday again."

  • I did not get you completely! You mean "like it there" is equal to "like there"? @Mahdi Mirafshar – M. Afrashteh Dec 24 '18 at 6:05
  • Not quite. You have subject-verb-object. Subject = "I"; Verb = "like"; Object = "it". ("It" is the 'empty' object that Mahdi Mirafshar described, meaning the conditions or situation.) So, "I like it." could be a complete sentence by itself, but you add the adverb "there" because you want to say where your sentence is happening: "I like it there." You need each of those 4 words to state the complete meaning.... Sorry if this has made it even more confusing. (I really am trying to help.) – Lorel C. Dec 24 '18 at 6:23
  • 1
    In sentence "I like it here", the verb 'like' is a transitive verb which requires the object 'it'. – Mahdi Mirafshar Dec 24 '18 at 6:23
1

This is the same "it" of "It's raining."; and "It's hot today". You could probably say, "I have been to W., and I like it.", "it" being Washington. But "... I like it there." sounds a little more common to me, and "it", in this case, isn't Washington itself in a concrete sense. I'm pretty sure it's the "it" that describes the environment/ambience/existence in general.

  • So why "there" comes after that? – M. Afrashteh Dec 24 '18 at 5:29
  • @M. Afrashteh, It's similar to : "I went fishing there."; "I fell in love there."; "I was happy there."; in general, "Subject-verb-object-there." .... "I like it." ... "You like it where?" ... "I like it there (in Washington)." – Lorel C. Dec 24 '18 at 6:10
  • It is right. But here both of "it" and "there" refers to Washington that is a little strange! – M. Afrashteh Dec 24 '18 at 6:16

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