This is from the BBC. Parents who cut ties

When he was at home, he was difficult to be around. “He never hit me, but would often destroy the flat in anger – there’s still a hole in the corridor where he kneed it” she explains.

"...the corridor where he kneed it." This part of the sentence is interesting, because I understand that he hit the hole (in the corridor) with his knee, probably, but then the sentence should have been "there’s still a hole in the corridor which he kneed., which means that "He kneed the hole in the corridor". Then there seems to be no need for an "IT", does there?

Really, do we need an "IT" in that sentence? If yes, why?

  • Why do you think the sentence should only be "there’s still a hole in the corridor which he kneed"? Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 11:25
  • @MichaelHarvey, because that is where the sentence starts. "There is still a hole in the corridor where he kneed it." Does this not seem to be full sentence?
    – Yunus
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 11:47
  • All your versions are valid English and mean the almost same. But a native speaker would use the original version, which includes "it", as it sounds more natural and improves the meaning as the answer below explains. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 12:16
  • 1
    You need it because the verb to knee in "he kneed it" is transitive. You can't use a transitive verb with no object.
    – stangdon
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 15:30
  • 1
    Careful, @stangdon: many transitive verbs can also be used intransitively, or allow their objects to be omitted. Knee is one where the object must be given, even if it is semantically empty.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 18:27

2 Answers 2


You're right that the phrase "there's still a hole in the corridor which he kneed" does fit the scenario you're describing, but it sounds a little odd and is unlikely to be something a native speaker would say.

There's a couple of reasons for this:

  • It isn't clear whether the the subject kneed the corridor, or if he kneed the hole.
  • It doesn't imply that the hole was caused by him kneeing it - it just says that there is a hole in the corridor, and that he kneed something (either the corridor or the hole).

This doesn't mean it's wrong - "there’s still a hole in the corridor which he kneed" still works as a sentence, it just could sound a little odd.

As to your first question - whether we really need an "it" for the sentence "There’s still a hole in the corridor where he kneed it". I don't know why you want to remove the word "it" - the word does a useful task here of specifying what the subject kneed. For example, an alternate sentence: "There’s still a hole in the corridor where he kneed the table" - here it implies that he kneed the table, which then caused the hole in the corridor. In the initial example, he kneed the corridor directly, so it says "where he kneed it".

  • The commonsense interpretation is that he made the hole by sticking his knee through a panel of some kind in the corridor. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 16:01
  • Yes that is true! I'm not saying it's an incorrect sentence or that it's meaning is impossible to decipher, I'm just saying there are reasons why that particular wording was unlikely to appear in the article.
    – John
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 18:16
  • But the additional point is that the verb knee requires an object. It's like say or need, or injure. Even the object is obvious from context, there has to be a word or phrase there.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 18:24

"It" refers not to the hole, but to the corridor. The sentence indicates that he struck the corridor with his knee, creating a hole.

If we try to interpret it as "there was a pre-existing hole in the corridor, which he stuck his knee into", that doesn't fit with the statement of the previous phrase that he would "often destroy the flat in anger"; sticking a knee into an already-present hole is not destructive, but striking the wall with your knee and creating a new hole is destructive. And it also doesn't fit the definition of "knee" (as a verb, "to strike with the knee") very well, because you can't really "strike" a hole; a hole is empty, and striking something requires making solid contact with it.

As Colin Fine mentioned in a comment, the verb knee requires an object to be the target of the action, so the "it" is necessary to indicate that the person struck the corridor (more specifically, most likely a wall, as it's very hard to knee a floor or ceiling).

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