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 '16 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 '16 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 '16 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 '16 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 '16 at 12:28

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 '16 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 '16 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 '16 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 '16 at 17:49

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