I need help please, I know it is a basic thing but as a Spanish speaker I have always had problems with the correct use of "it".
For example:

That green skirt belongs to Anne, it is her skirt.

In the last section of that sentence, if I name the thing (skirt), do I still have to use "it"? Because there are cases when the "it" can be left out, right?

  • Do you mean to say that in Spanish, we can write "That green skirt belongs to Annie, is her skirt"? Jul 4, 2016 at 18:04
  • "That green skirt belongs to Anne, it is her skirt." is grammatically acceptable. It could also be changed into "that green skirt belongs to Anne, it is hers." Jul 4, 2016 at 18:05
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    "It" is anaphoric to "that green skirt". We call it a pro-form. You can omit "it", but you get the repetitive "That green skirt belongs to Anne; that green skirt is her skirt. The whole idea of pro-forms like "it" is to avoid unnecessary repetition. Have you got an example of "it" being left out?
    – BillJ
    Jul 4, 2016 at 18:27
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    @CowperKettle - Yes, in Spanish you can often omit an explicit pronoun, or you can regard it as included in the verb: Es mi abrigo = "It's my coat." You don't usually have to say "Él es" or "Ella es" unless it's really necessary for clarification.
    – stangdon
    Jul 5, 2016 at 11:53
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    @stangdon - interesting! In Russian, we never use the verb in this sentence. "It my coat". It is called "zero copula" (нулевая связка): the copular "is" is implied but not pronounced. Jul 5, 2016 at 12:28

1 Answer 1


In English, apart from imperatives and some informal conversational patterns (see below), we always need a subject, even if it is the formally meaningless "it" or "there" (as in "It's raining", or "There is a book on the table"). In your example, "it" isn't meaningless, it refers to the skirt, and is required.

The informal conversational patterns I referred to are harder to characterise. In answering a question, we can sometimes omit the subject:

Why is he here? Wants to ask you something.

but it is more common to omit the subject and auxiliary:

Where's Jackie? Gone home.

Sometimes in a sort of spoken narrative, the subject can be omitted when it's obvious, but this is nearly always a first or second person subject:

Went down to the shops yesterday: bought a sofa.

Forgot something?

But here too, we often drop an auxiliary as well as the subject:

Been away, then? Yes, visiting the Bahamas.

And I have had difficulty inventing a plausible third-person example, unless it follows a sentence where the subject is expressed:

She left home last Thursday. Went to London, apparently.

And I can't think of any plausible example of omitting a subject before a part of "be", except maybe in an argument:

You weren't there! Was!

In summary, I can't think of any context in which "Is her skirt" would stand as a sentence (not a question!) on its own.

  • Q: "Her shoes are green." A: "Is her skirt?" Clumsy, agreed, but one might hear it in conversation. Jul 4, 2016 at 20:53
  • @P.E.Dant: "Is her skirt?" is a perfectly normal question, with the verb 'is' inverted before the subject. The subject is present. I'll edit the reply.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 4, 2016 at 21:24
  • Mr. Colin Fine, thank you for your answer. If I understood well, you say that it is possible in this case to leave "it" out: "Is her skirt" Is this correct? It seems that you are the only person who thinks like this. All the other people who had the kindness to send a reply, think otherwise. A bit confusing, is it not? Jul 5, 2016 at 17:21
  • No, @claudiosepulveda. I said that "Is her skirt?" is a well-formed question, but I didn't say that it only makes sense if the context shows what you're asking about her skirt, as in P.E.Dant's example. As a statement, "Is her skirt" is ungrammatical.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 5, 2016 at 17:49

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