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When I translate an Italian sentence, I often use the "dummy it" to keep the same structure of the Italian sentence.
For example, translating è stato difficile trovare il colpevole, I would say "it has been difficult to find who is guilty" instead of "finding who is guilty has been difficult" or "to find who is guilty has been difficult." The Italian equivalent of the last sentence is trovare il colpevole è stato difficile, which is not different from è stato difficile trovare il colpevole. The only difference is that I inverted the order of trovare il colpevole, and è stato difficile, and I am probably highlighting the fact it has been difficult.

In this case, using it has a purpose. Imagine speaking with somebody that uses a sentence similar to the one I used as example every time a new topic is introduced.
Can using a sentence with the same structure of the sentence I used as example be seen as overusing a construct, such as in the case I would keep saying this very moment instead of this moment, or "I do like it" instead of "I like it"?

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  • A minor note about your first example sentence: It's much more common (and natural) to use "find out" than just "find when talking about discovering a previously unknown fact: "It has been difficult to find out who is guilty."
    – Zgialor
    Mar 15, 2015 at 23:29
  • I don't speak Italian, buy I'm wondering if "find the guilty PERSON" or "find the guilty ONE" might be more apt than "find out who is guilty". Mar 16, 2015 at 7:54

1 Answer 1

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We can't really say if you're "overusing" the dummy it from a single example. But I think it's highly unlikely, because it's such a standard feature of English.

Firstly, notice that in the previous sentence, I've used a second pronoun it to reference the initial dummy it. There's nothing unusual about that; we use dummy it all over the place.

Secondly, I'd suggest OP's other habits ("this very moment", "I do like it") aren't really comparable, because they're both emphatic forms. A native speaker is bound to notice if you keep emphasising everything you say, but they're not going to notice if you just happen to use dummy it a lot.


EDIT: I can't resist pointing out that in my final sentence above, I could quite reasonably have written "...they're not going to notice it if you just happen to...". And adding a useful link describing/explaining the dummy "it" and related sentence structures.

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  • Notice that in the phrase I used as example, it is at the beginning of the sentence, and it doesn't follow words like because. The difference is that I could rewrite my example as "Finding who was guilty has been difficult."
    – apaderno
    Feb 19, 2013 at 15:06
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    @kiamlaluno: It's irrelevant whether it comes at the beginning of the sentence. My example second sentence could just as easily have been simply "It's highly unlikely because it's such a standard feature of English." Also note that my first sentence could have said "we can't really say if the usage is excessive". In which case someone might say my second "it" in the second sentence isn't a "dummy", because it's a pronoun indicating the usage. But that would be nitpicking (like I said, it's common). Feb 19, 2013 at 15:49
  • Yet, my question is not about generally using it as expletive pronoun. I know that "it is raining" cannot be rephrased as "the sky is raining," and that "I think it is correct" would become longer, if I rephrase it without it.
    – apaderno
    Feb 19, 2013 at 16:08
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    Expletive pronoun is a term-of-art equivalent to dummy pronoun. Feb 19, 2013 at 16:30
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    @FumbleFingers No, I think he's worried about overusing it because his language doesn't require a dummy - there seems to be no subject in his example. Feb 19, 2013 at 17:29

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