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It would help if you created a timeline for yourself and stuck to it when completing your project.

What does it refer to?

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  • It doesn't refer to anything. The "it" is a dummy element serving the syntactic purpose of filling the subject position. The element following "it" doesn’t give the meaning (reference) of "it" but serves simply as a semantic argument of the VP.
    – BillJ
    Jan 4 at 13:46
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    Does this answer your question? What exactly is a dummy-it?
    – Lambie
    Jan 4 at 18:25
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    @doraemon1 I suggest you ignore that link. The sentence it links to has a different "it", a pro-form that has an antecedent. The "it" in your example is quite different in that it has no antecedent, See my first comment.
    – BillJ
    Jan 5 at 8:26

1 Answer 1

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This is similar to an extraposition in which a clause is moved to the end of the sentence in that "it" refers forward to "you creating a timeline for yourself and sticking to it when completing your project." But in moving it this way, the participle needs to become a finite clause "creating" → "... you create ..." (see discussion in comments)

You can rephrase, but you'll need some pro-form, or to lose the explicit condition:

Creating a timeline for yourself and sticking to it when completing your project would help you (if you did it).

The form with "it" is better, as it flows more naturally (the long phrase is put at the end)

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  • Are you sure, James? I thought it-clefts contained a relative clause that expressed the backgrounded element, as in "It was Sue (who introduced me to Ed]"
    – BillJ
    Jan 4 at 10:45
  • Okay, probably not a formal "cleft", but related as the "It" refers cataphorically a phrase which is delayed for the sake of focus or or simply because the phrase would make a clumsy subject for the sentence.
    – James K
    Jan 4 at 11:17
  • I'd say it resembles, not a cleft, but extraposition, in that what would help would be your creating a timeline for yourself and sticking to it when completing your project. But it differs from extraposition in that the final element is not a content clause, not a potential replacement for "it".
    – BillJ
    Jan 4 at 13:36
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    I'll take that.
    – James K
    Jan 4 at 17:47

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