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Can I say "it's people"? Is there a situation where this phrase can be used in a daily speech and grammatically correct?

Usage example:

A: Why don't you understand?

B: Me? It's people who can't understand me!

I confuse whether I should use "it's" or "these are", but I think the second one would sound awkward?

3 Answers 3

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As always, it would help to look at the uncontracted form:

It is people who cannot understand me!

"It" is a dummy pronoun, as "people who can't understand me" (*) would be ungrammatical with the "who".

Alternative ways of phrasing this idea are:

  • The/My problem is that other people can't understand me!
  • It's other people's fault that they don't understand me!

or just:

  • It's other people who can't understand me!

This sentence sounds very natural when used in the right context because the subject, other people or people in general, is placed at the very front of the sentence. You could say that this is an example of the topic-comment structure used in English.

From the above, it follows that "these are the people who don't understand me" has an entirely different meaning.

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  • Isn't the dummy pronoun there to replace "What I don't understand" in "What I don't understand is people who can't understand me!"? "What I don't understand" is singular in any case.
    – abligh
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 18:45
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    B isn't saying they don't understand people not understanding them; they are contesting the idea that there is anything they don't understand, asserting instead that they are misunderstood by others.
    – chepner
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 20:16
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    If "it" refers to anything, it's a general state of the word (one in which B is misunderstood, as opposed to one in which B doesn't not understand something).
    – chepner
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 20:19
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"It's people..." is correct as written. There is a widely known joke using this form:

"I love humanity. It's people I can't stand."

But to say, for example, "It's astonishing how early the sun rises in summer," is quite common.

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That sentence is a cleft sentence. Specifically, it's a type of cleft sentence called an "it-cleft sentence," and an it-cleft sentence always starts with the word "it," regardless of whether the following word is a singular noun, a plural noun, or even something that isn't a noun at all.

Some other examples of it-cleft sentences:

  • It was John that you saw yesterday.
  • No, Watson wasn't scamming the businessmen; it's the businessmen who were scamming Watson.
  • It was in Paris that I first saw him.
  • It was with great difficulty that we managed to understand that sentence.
  • It was not until yesterday that I was able to solve the puzzle.

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