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We are essentially creatures of habit. If you have any question about this, just transfer your wristwatch to the other hand. Even though it should not make the slightest difference on which hand it is worn, you will soon find that you are very aware of the change, and it may even feel cumbersome or awkward. Even though it should not make the slightest difference 'on which hand it is worn', you will soon find that you are very aware of the change, ...The Thin You Within You: Winning the Weight Game with Self-Esteem

Can "wh-clause" serve as a real subject for a dummy subject or placeholder, it?

If so, can I think the above sentence is a case in point?

And lastly, about "on" in "on which hand it is worn", is it originally "which hand it is worn on" but "on" went before "which", right?

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You are correct on both counts.


It should not make the slightest difference on which hand it is worn.

This phenomenon is called extraposition. Here is what the non-extraposed version of this sentence would look like:

On which hand it is worn should not make the slightest difference.

The clause in bold is too heavy (that is, long) to sound natural in its initial position, so it is moved to the end of the sentence:

__ should not make the slightest difference on which hand it is worn.

This version is ungrammatical: it does not have a proper subject. To fill in that gap, we have to use a dummy pronoun, namely it.

It should not make the slightest difference on which hand it is worn.

The dummy it is called that because it does not have any meaning. It simply makes the sentence syntactically valid. The "real subject"—the one that does have meaning—is the subordinate clause on the right.

Here is an excerpt from A Student's Introduction to English Grammar, Chapter 15, 3.1:

Clauses with a subordinate clause subject generally have variants with the subordinate clause at the end and dummy it as subject:

[22]           BASIC VERSION                        VERSION WITH EXTRAPOSITION
i   a. That he was acquitted disturbs her.  b. It disturbs her that he was acquitted.
ii  a. How she escaped remains a mystery.   b. It remains a mystery how she escaped.
iii a. To give up now would be a mistake.   b. It would be a mistake to give up now.

At least two distinctive properties of the subject outlined in Ch. 4, §2.1 show that the dummy it must be the subject: it occurs before the VP, in the basic subject position, and it occurs after the auxiliary when there is subject-auxiliary inversion (the closed interrogative counterpart of [ib], for example, is Does it disturb her that he was acquitted?).

We call the subordinate clause in the [b] version an extraposed subject, but that doesn't mean it's a kind of subject; it's an element in extraposed position, outside the VP, that CORRESPONDS to the subject of the basic version.


It should not make the slightest difference on which hand it is worn.

This phenomenon is called pied-piping. The preposition on has been moved from its initial position, next to the past participle worn, to its object, the noun phrase which hand. You could safely put the preposition back:

It should not make the slightest difference which hand it is worn on.

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