I was doing exercises from Murphy's textbook and came across the following sentence:

It was Ken's birthday yesterday. We had a party.

I should have changed 'it' to 'there' where it was necessary, so I replaced it to 'There was Ken's birthday.." because the grammar says that

We use there ... when we talk about something for the first time, to say that it exists

But the right answer was that this sentence was OK with 'It' at the beginning. I was surprised, because there hasn't been any mention about Ken's birthday before and they say about it for the first time. So why can't we put 'There' instead?

  • 2
    What your grammar book says about there is true when we are talking about a thing, person or animal - for example 'there is a cat in the garden'. However, we use it when we are talking about a date - 'It is Saturday tomorrow' - 'It is my birthday next week'. Commented May 10, 2022 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


We use normally use the dummy subject 'it' if we are simply saying a particular day, month, or year had, has, or will have some characteristic:

It was my birthday yesterday.

It is Tuesday today.

It will be Christmas two weeks from today.

It is June next month.

You could use 'there is/was/will be' to talk about the occurence of something, e.g. 'there was Ken's birthday yesterday, and there will be Mary's next week'.

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