In Sweet Smell of Success (1957), columnist J.J. Hunsecker and his press agent Sidney ascend the steps from the basement club and they met corrupt police detective Harry Kello across the street:

J.J. Hunsecker: Hello, Harry.

Harry Kello: Buona sera, commendatore. Come sta?

J.J. Hunsecker: Italian, Sidney. That shows Lieutenant Kello likes your people.

Harry Kello: It's my Brooklyn background, J.J. Good with Yiddish too.

Is "it" used as dummy pronoun or reference to something?

  • I'd say it's a dummy, i.e. it does not have an antecedent.
    – BillJ
    Jan 19, 2023 at 13:44

1 Answer 1


"It" is a pronoun. Grammatically speaking, it must always have an antecedent or as you put it a "reference to something", specifically something that it is replacing in the sentence. The point of using a pronoun is to condense sentences and reduce repetition.

In this example, "it" refers Harry Kello's ability to speak Italian, at least conversationally. Another, more verbose, equivalent would be something along the lines of "My ability to speak Italian is due to my upbringing in [the immigrant heavy and multicultural area of] Brooklyn, JJ. I can speak Yiddish as well, for the same reason".

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