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I am speaking about a man who receives a piece of advice from a friend, but because the advice entails radical changes in his life he replies:

Your advice is so demanding, it is difficult to accept!

Now, while I was typing this, my fingers couldn't stop there, but by instinct went on to type it at the end.

Your advice is so demanding, it is difficult to accept it!

Are they both acceptable? If they are, is there additional information in the second variant?

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    Here's a (somewhat contrived) context where it really could make a difference to the meaning if you did or didn't include the pronoun at the end... I'm not sure that "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is a useful word to teach to learners. It's hard to say [it]. Without the pronoun, that last sentence would more naturally be interpreted as I find it difficult to decide [whether it's a useful word or not]. But with the pronoun, it could only be interpreted as articulating that word is difficult. Dec 9, 2020 at 17:03
  • You definitely nailed it now!
    – fev
    Dec 9, 2020 at 17:06
  • Not quite! I feel sure that there must be at least some contexts where almost all native speakers would include "it" in such constructions. And some other contexts where almost none of us would do so. In my example above, both versions are possible - they just mean different things. But there should be other contexts where only one version is idiomatically acceptable. Dec 9, 2020 at 17:13
  • @FF: what I meant is that this is exactly what I intuitively thought that the difference would be in my example, too. So IT really fits my question. But certainly, the matter cannot be so easily done with...
    – fev
    Dec 9, 2020 at 17:16
  • Just so long as we're clear. Your example only has one meaning, with or without "it". It's a complete red herring to introduce the idea that if "it" isn't specified, you might be having difficulty accepting something other than "your advice". But with my example, even though it would be more naturally interpreted as difficult to decide without "it", the alternative difficult to pronounce parsing is at least possible. Dec 9, 2020 at 17:30

2 Answers 2

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In contexts where [verb] is a transitive verb used in the construction...

It's [adjective] to [verb]

...it's largely a stylistic choice whether to explicitly specify the "object" of the verb (it) at the end of the utterance. Thus...

I like this game. It's fun to play [it]

...is syntactically valid with or without it at the end. But idiomatically, native speakers don't normally1 include it.


Note that although we don't usually include it in such constructions, this is nothing to do with the fact that the utterance starts with a (completely unrelated) use of "existential" it (as in It's hot today!, where it doesn't really reference anything at all; it's just an established construction). Usually, only non-native speakers notice and are bothered by such "repetition".


1 I may be overstating the case here. Perhaps it's safer to say Native speakers often don't include "it". There are probably some "guiding principles" as regards where we're more (or less) likely to include it. But even if that's true, the fact that I myself am not consciously aware of any such principles suggests learners don't need to worry much about it either.

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  • Yes, I totally agree with you. I am not sure how they call it in English but I would describe the first IT as an impersonal pronoun (without a referent as you say), whereas the second definitely replaces the advice. But am I in the wrong when I look at the first variant I gave and understand (IT) The advice is difficult to accept?
    – fev
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:16
  • @fev the basic answer is that you are correct. However, if one left a longer pause where the comma is (in speech!), it would be ambiguous: again, the 'it' could either directly refer to the advice, or it could refer to the situation in general (similarly to "It's hard to believe that she did that.") I'm a little surprised by the downvotes on my answer, but opinions will always differ, I guess.
    – legatrix
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:21
  • @legatrix: Per previous comment, I don't think there's any scope in OP's context for supposing that what's "difficult to accept" is anything other than "your advice". The alternative (it's difficult to accept my life in general) would have to be expressed differently. Dec 9, 2020 at 16:23
  • Fair enough to both of you! I guess the main point is that you don't need to worry about the difference too much, as @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica said.
    – legatrix
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:25
  • @FF: Am I in the wrong when I look at the first variant I gave and understand (IT) The advice is difficult to accept?
    – fev
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:30
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They're largely the same, and both acceptable. However, I would suggest that the first has one reading only:

  • Your advice is so demanding, it's difficult to accept [your advice]

whereas the second has two readings:

  • Your advice is so demanding, it's difficult to accept [your advice]
  • Your advice is so demanding, it's difficult to accept ['things' in general; i.e. the general current situation in which you are giving me advice]

So in the second, 'it' can have a slightly more general reading; however, the practical meaning is very similar.

By the way, I'm not sure if advice itself should really be called demanding. Perhaps the things that are advised would be demanding if one did them.

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    Hm, between friends I would say this is too explicative :) How about Talk about some advice! It's so hard to accept (it)! Would that do?
    – fev
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:09
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    I'm afraid I don't see the presence or absence of terminating it as relevant to this semantic distinction. Once "your advice" has been mentioned, it's impossible for me to interpret difficult to accept as referencing anything other than that advice, with or without it. Dec 9, 2020 at 16:12
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    That's up to you, no problem! Here's another example I just spoke to ensure it sounds right: "Your cheating and your lies, I can't just forget it!" This sounds fine to me, and would be the same it of situational reference (often followed by all). Note that strict syntactic reference would require *them" (which is of course also possible). But I won't keep defending this point. It's your choice, after all!
    – legatrix
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:35
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    @legatrix: "Your cheating and your lies, I can't just forget it!" is a better example of your point. I accept that.
    – fev
    Dec 9, 2020 at 16:39
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    I think you're confusing the issue by bringing up I just can't take it! in this context. Admittedly, it's possible to tease out two alternative parsings for Your advice is useless. I just can't take it! (where "it" might be "your advice" OR it might be "my circumstances"). But that's a completely different verb, and a completely different construction (where it's syntactically invalid to simply discard that final "it"). Dec 9, 2020 at 16:51

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