Sentence 1: We try to help whenever it is possible.

Sentence 2: We try to help whenever possible.

Sentence 3: I should like to be back here by 10.30 if it is possible.

Sentence 4: I should like to be back here by 10.30 if possible.

I am wondering why we could omit "it is" in the above situations.

Thank you very much!

  • 2
    Yes, "it is" is implied. Also in S3. and S4, use "would" instead of "should". Also I edited S4 as it looked like a missed copy/paste. – user3169 Aug 2 '14 at 16:54
  • I am just wondering why we could omit "it is" in the situations. – April Aug 3 '14 at 3:04
  • "It" is used to point to a noun or action. If it is already obvious where one is pointing to (or what one is talking about), "it" may be skipped. So generally speaking, "It" and the pointed object are in not used in the same sentence (or section of a sentence). – JuliandotNut Aug 3 '14 at 21:10
  • There's no reason to suppose it's specifically the words it is that have been "deleted". The first example could be "fleshed out" as "We try to help whenever helping is possible". "It" is just a convenient pronoun to reference whatever we hope might be possible (for "generic" terms, that or this would normally be just as acceptable), but it's stretching a point to say that any such reference is inherently necessary between whenever and possible. It's just something we often do. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 6 '14 at 21:44

"It is" is a phrase used to remind a reader or listener of the subject being discussed. The examples you've given are short and the hearer probably remembers what you're talking about so it (the reminder) is unnecessary.

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I think this is simply an example of an abbreviation of a common conditional phrase form. There are many similar examples.

  • Use fresh tomatoes, when available.
  • Visit Rome, if nearby.
  • Smile, if happy.

This is done for concision when the result is unambiguous.

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"possible" is an adjective meaning that something can happen. I always find it easier when you simplify the sentences to understand what is happening. Sentence 1a: We help whenever possible. (take out "try to") Possible in this case has to refer to help.

Sentence 4a: I will return if possible (replace "should like", which is perfectly correct British English, with "will", "be back" becomes "return" and take the time out, just to simplify the sentence). Possible refers to return.

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  • How does this answer the question of "What makes it okay to omit it is in these sentences?" – Jim Aug 3 '14 at 0:38
  • Yes, it doesn't answer my question. I am wondering why we could omit "it is" in the situations. – April Aug 3 '14 at 3:05

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