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I'm trying to figure out what is 'it' referring to in the context of this sentence:

Within a week of the opening, it was discovered that nuts and bolts as well as maintenance lamps had been stolen..

The full passage is as follow:

Construction was started on August 20th, 2003. In July 2004, a girder collapsed, killing one worker and injuring nine others. Work on the bridge halted at the end of 2004 due to lack of funds, but was restarted in November 2005. The main span of the bridge was connected on March 31", 2009, and the bridge was opened to the public in June 10, 2009. Within a week of the opening, it was discovered that nuts and bolts as well as maintenance lamps had been stolen and that there was evidence of vandalism of cables supporting the main span.

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Within a week of the opening, it was discovered that nuts and bolts as well as maintenance lamps had been stolen.

The word "it" doesn't refer to anything. It's a special use of the personal pronoun "it", where it is not anaphoric and does not refer directly to a contextually salient entity.

It is a dummy element here, simply serving the syntactic purpose of filling the subject position

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  • Thank you! English is my second language and grammatical components like the usage of 'it' in this case can be rather hard to dissect. We just use it conversationally without much thought that when the question does appear, it can be quite difficult to find the answer to. You've been a great help. Nov 27, 2021 at 14:26
  • @AdrianChan You're welcome.
    – BillJ
    Nov 27, 2021 at 14:34

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