5

"Charlie's in Romania studying dragons, and Bill's in Africa doing something for Gringotts[bank]," said Ron. "Did you hear about Gringotts? It's been all over the Daily Prophet, but I don't suppose you get that with the Muggles - someone tried to rob a high security vault."
Harry stared.
"Really? What happened to them?"
"Nothing, that's why it's such big news. They haven't been caught. My dad says it must've been a powerful Dark wizard to get round Gringotts, but they don't think they took anything, that's what's odd. 'Course, everyone gets scared when something like this happens in case You-Know-Who's behind it."
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

Does highlighted 'it' indicate ‘someone’ who wasn’t known its sex; or is it an anticipatory it (dummy it) for ‘a powerful Dark wizard to get round Gringotts’?

  • Anticipatory: To get round Gringotts required a powerful Dark wizard. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 29 '13 at 11:58
  • I probably misunderstand what 'to get round' mean with reading your comment. Isn't it mean 'to go near Gringotts'? Would you explain the phrase? – Listenever Apr 29 '13 at 12:48
  • From an English-Korean dictionary, ‘get around’ has the meaning ‘outdo somebody’ yet I don’t find the parallel in English dictionaries. – Listenever Apr 29 '13 at 13:08
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    Get round here means to 'by-pass or evade' Gringotts' vigilance; in other contexts it might mean deceive someone or to persuade someone to do (or permit you to do) something they would rather not. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 29 '13 at 13:10
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    Here and here are my favorite dictionaries. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 29 '13 at 13:17
3

This is, as you suspected, a "dummy" pronoun.

The English verb BE is not 'existential' - that is, it cannot be used intransitively to assert the existence or occurrence of its subject. It is a copula which joins its subject to a noun or adjective phrase which characterizes the subject - a 'subject complement'.

Consequently, if you want to assert the existence of something you must introduce a dummy subject to which BE may join the something.

Usually that dummy is there: There must've been a powerful Dark wizard to get round Gringotts. But there is not (as is usually claimed) a dummy pronoun, but a dummy adverbial: the there BE construction asserts the presence of its complement.

Ron, however, wants to assert not merely that a powerful wizard was present but that the wizard was the agent, the subject of get round. He accomplishes this semantic shift by employing the alternative dummy pronoun it: It must've been ...

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  • Excuse my daring another question: is this to-infinitive, "to get round Gringotts," adverbial implying an objective? – Listenever Apr 30 '13 at 2:16
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    @Listenever Not so much an objective as a consequence; except that Ron is reasoning in the opposite direction, from the effect to the cause. "To get round Gringotts--that required a powerful wizard." – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 30 '13 at 2:25

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