This is from a video about how planets and stars are born and how life might have started.

.....and it's these dense clouds that are of interest to ALMA, because it's there that planets and stars begin to form. Galaxies and stars and planets (See:22:38-22:43)

In terms of structure, I would probably not be able to form such a good structure as a non-native speaker. The closest I would say probably would be:

"....because it is where planets and stars begin to form."

However, when I compare my sentence to the original one, the original one sounds better, although there seems to be no difference in meaning. I am not quite sure why the first one sounds better.

Is it simply because it is more idiomatic to say it that way or is anything wrong with my structure "It is where something happens." instead of "It is there that something happens."

  • I don't understand how you can simultaneously say you wouldn't be able to generate the actual phrasing as cited, yet you claim to be able to somehow "sense" that it's better than your alternative. The truth is they're both perfectly good for the context, and there's no real point in trying to decide which is "best" or "more idiomatic". If such a blanket judgement were possible, don't you think all Anglophones would have switched to the "better" version generations ago? Dec 14, 2023 at 16:38
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    There means in these dense clouds. The sentence doesn't work so well with where - you would have to say because they (the clouds) are where planets begin to form. Dec 14, 2023 at 16:54
  • @KateBunting: Each to their own. I don't have a problem with just repeating it's in the exact context - syntax notwithstanding, my "semantic" perspective is if it's good enough for it's these dense clouds..., it's good enough to refer to exactly the same thing using exactly the same pronoun for it's where it's at! Dec 14, 2023 at 23:23

1 Answer 1


I wouldn't worry too much about it. This is about tone. The constructions "It is there that X happens" and "This is where X happens" (or similar) are pretty much equivalent in meaning. And I wouldn't recommend using the "it is there that" construction in informal contexts, and "this is where" wouldn't be bad even in formal contexts.

The construction you found gives a somewhat lofty tone, somewhat poetical. It would sound odd in casual conversation, but appropriate in speechmaking (or science/anthropology documentary voiceovers). To use this in everyday speech with friends would make you sound like an orator or documentary narrator. When in doubt, I would choose a simpler construction like the one you suggested.

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