2

"It is a good habit for children to read books everyday."

I'm not quite sure how to analyze this sentence. Is the "it" a dummy pronoun?

I think the whole infinitive clause is "for children to read books"

So, basically it can be written like this: For children to read books everyday is a good habit.

But if the sentence is written this way, it doesn't make much sense.

"To read books everyday is a good habit for children." Only when it's written like this does it make sense.

Can somebody help me analyze the sentence?

2

2 Answers 2

4

[1] [For children to read books every day] is a good habit.

[2] It is a good habit [for children to read books everyday].

[2] is an extrapostion construction, the extraposed version of [1], where the subject position is filled by the dummy pronoun "it" and the subordinate infinitival clause "for children to read books every day" is extraposed to the end of the matrix clause.

The extraposed clause has "for" as subordinating conjunction which introduces the head clause "children to read books every day", where "children" is subject and the verb phrase "to read books every day" serving as predicate.

Note that in [2] the predicative complement of "be" is just the NP "a good habit", just as it is in the basic (non-extraposed) version, [1].

2
  • 1
    With BillJ's NP being an abbreviation for Noun Phrase in this context.
    – J. Berry
    Aug 24, 2023 at 8:21
  • 1
    @J.Berry Yes, it is.
    – BillJ
    Aug 24, 2023 at 8:37
1

In the original version of your sentence:

It is a good habit for children to read books every day.

The sentence can be broken down like this:

  • It [Subject of sentence; a "dummy pronoun"]
  • is [Linking Verb]
  • a, good [Indefinite Article and Attributive Adjective, modifying "habit"]
  • habit [Predicate Noun, linked to the subject "It" by "is"]
  • for [See meaning 4 on Merriam-Webster; it says it's a "function word" indicating "suitability." This source calls it a preposition.]
  • children [Object of preposition "for"; the prepositional phrase "for children" functions as an adverb modifying "good"]
  • to read [Infinitive; in apposition with the dummy pronoun "it"]
  • books [Direct object of "to read"]
  • every [Attributive Adjective modifying "day"]
  • day [As part of the phrase "every day," which functions as an adverb and modifies of "to read"]

So, what is the sentence talking about (what's the subject)? "It" - which is "to read." What is it saying about it?

It [Subj.], to read [App.], is a good habit [Pred. N.].

This is the structural "core" of the sentence.

Now we can add the details back in: To read what? Books [D.O.]. When? Every day [Adv. Phrase].

It, to read books every day, is a good habit.

Who is the habit good for? For children - so this phrase functions as an adverb modifying good.

It, to read books every day, is a good habit for children.

It sounds stilted to have the appositive right after the dummy pronoun. So, to sound the most natural, the sentence should be rearranged (keeping the same meaning as a whole, and the same functions for the individual parts) to what you had originally:

It is a good habit for children to read books every day.

You are correct that the meaning of this sentence is the exact same as the second alternative which you suggested, which is

To read books every day is a good habit for children.

This just leaves out the dummy pronoun, and uses the infinitive "to read" as the subject instead of an appositive to the subject. Note that this version sounds much more formal than the original sentence did, and so is unlikely to be said in casual conversation.


By the way, the version you say doesn't make sense can be fixed with some punctuation:

For children, to read books every day is a good habit.

The comma after "children" makes this no longer ungrammatical. It still is the least preferable of the three alternatives in terms of how likely it is to be used (it sounds kind of awkward).


Edit: While all three versions of the sentence can express the same meaning, only the original version ("It is a good habit for children to read books every day") is likely to be said by a native speaker. The other versions are more likely to be found in writing in works that are older, formal, or both. See the comment by @WiringHarness under this answer.

6
  • 1
    Thank you. I thought "for children" is the subject of the infinitive clause. So, according to your analysis, it does not exactly functions as the subject of "to read books everyday."
    – vincentlin
    Aug 24, 2023 at 6:10
  • @vincentlin In the syntactic breakdown which I used in my answer, "children" does not function as the subject of the infinitive "to read." However, I can't say for certain whether it could be analyzed as the subject of the infinitive in that same sentence. If it were, that would change the structure significantly. I'm confident in the analysis I used being accurate, but not in it being the only correct one - there may be more than one valid classification. I'm interested to see if anyone else posts an answer which breaks the sentence down differently :) Aug 24, 2023 at 6:15
  • If you classify "children" as the subject of "to read," that would make the entire phrase "children to read books every day" function as the object of the preposition "for." So, "(It is a good habit) for (children to read books every day)." But then "for" seems kind of stranded: what would the prepositional phrase modify? Or is "for" something other than a preposition in that context? You could substitute a relative pronoun and keep the same meaning: "(It is a good habit) that (children should read books every day)." But then you'd have to change the infinitive to the subjunctive Aug 24, 2023 at 6:21
  • And besides, "for" can't (as far as I know) be a relative pronoun. So, classifying "children" as the subject of "to read" seems to lead to an inconsistency in analyzing the sentence- you'll eventually get stuck trying to assign each word's function (or at least I got stuck). This is why I chose the analysis I did - which avoids running into this kind of difficulty - but again, there may be other valid interpretations! That shows you asked a good question, since there isn't a single obvious answer Aug 24, 2023 at 6:24
  • 1
    Nice answer. One thing to mention is that the first alternative "It is a good habit for children to read books every day." sounds the most natural, it's something a native speaker would say. The other two alternatives are totally correct but sound stuffy since that's not really the way today's English speakers express themselves. Aug 24, 2023 at 16:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .