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I'm reading Animal Farm and come across this sentence:

He seldom talked, and when he did, it was usually to make some cynical remark...

How can I understand this part it was usually to make some cynical remark...?

  1. Why was the word it used here? What's the grammar used here?
  2. What does this be to structure mean in this sentence?

1 Answer 1

2

He seldom talked, and when he did [talk], it was usually to make some cynical remark...

The antecedent of the pronoun it is the understood word talk, (repeated above).

That is, when he did talk, his talking had the purpose of making a cynical remark.

Another example: When I go out for a walk, it is to exercise.
In that example, the antecedent of it is I go for a walk.

2
  • So if it is the understood talk, that means talk is the subject to this sentence, then it doesn't make sense to me. The remark should be made by him, not the talk, shouldn't it?
    – preachers
    Nov 4, 2021 at 0:21
  • His talk was to, that is, it had the purpose of, making a cynical remark. The talking is done by him, and the purpose of his talk is to make a cynical remark. The subject of the last clause is it, which can't have he as an antecedent. Nov 4, 2021 at 0:34

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