I know that it is OK to say.

1) I don't understand what is written here.

but it seems to me that

2) I don't understand what IT is written here. is also OK? Is my guess correct? If yes, how would you explain the possibility of using IT in the sentence? What difference does it bring into the sentence?

  • Unless you add at least a comma to your sentence, the second sentence is not OK. Why would you think it is OK? Did you read this anywhere? At the moment your question feels a bit like "Is this sentence OK? 'there is a maybe cup of tea on the table.' Why can maybe be used there?" – oerkelens Aug 4 '14 at 13:29
  • Look at these two. 1) What is written here? 2) What is it written here? Do you agree that 2 is correct? – user1425 Aug 4 '14 at 13:31
  • No, I do not agree :) You could say "What is it, that is written here?", but that is certainly not the same sentence. You could also use punctuation: "What!? Is it written here?" or "What is it, written here?" Although that last one would need some context to be understandable, I think... – oerkelens Aug 4 '14 at 13:43
  • A: Where is it written? B: It is written here? A: What is it written here? - I though in this context it was OK. I was wrong. – user1425 Aug 4 '14 at 13:47

Example (2) has two pronouns side by side: the relative pronoun "what" and the personal pronoun "it." That is what makes it ungrammatical.

You may be confused by an association with "it is written here that..." in which "it" is a dummy subject, which is used when there is no subject, because English always requires a subject of some sort. However this "it" is dropped when another subject (pronoun or noun) is used.

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  • What about this one? "I don't know what it is all about." We can't leave "it" out, can we? Why? – user1425 Aug 4 '14 at 15:55
  • In your first example, you have a passive voice construction. The answer could be "<X> is written". The alternate answer, "<X> it is written"(*) would be ungrammatical. In your second example, you have an active voice construction, and the answer might be "It is all about <x>". The alternative answer, "Is all about <x>" would again be ungrammatical, because it would contain no subject. – The Photon Aug 5 '14 at 3:17

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