A third grade student has been asked to find out the subject and the predicate in the sentence:

There are a book and a pen on the table.

Here, it says that the real subject is "a book and a pen" but I know that "there" can also be called a "dummy subject".

What should be the most suitable subject and predicate in this context?

1 Answer 1


The real subject "there" because it's involved in the subject-auxiliary inversion and used in a question tag:

Subject-auxiliary inversion:

Are there a book and a pen on the table?

Question tag:

There are a book and a pen on the table, aren't there?

"A book and a pen" is a displaced subject. A displaced subject is not syntactically a subject, but it semantically corresponds to the subject in the non-existential counterpart.

  • And the predicate is everything except the "there"?
    – user100323
    Sep 2, 2020 at 3:25
  • 1
    Yes @user100323 Sep 2, 2020 at 4:52
  • and the same thing applies to the the sentences starting with "it"?
    – user100323
    Sep 2, 2020 at 4:53
  • 1
    @user100323 For example? Sep 2, 2020 at 4:54
  • for example, "it is a pleasure working with you"
    – user100323
    Sep 2, 2020 at 4:56

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