"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 the highlighted 'it' indicate ‘someone’ whose sex is unknown, 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. Apr 29, 2013 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, 2013 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, 2013 at 13:08
  • 1
    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. Apr 29, 2013 at 13:10
  • 1
    Here and here are my favorite dictionaries. Apr 29, 2013 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


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 ...

  • Excuse my daring another question: is this to-infinitive, "to get round Gringotts," adverbial implying an objective?
    – Listenever
    Apr 30, 2013 at 2:16
  • 1
    @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." Apr 30, 2013 at 2:25

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