It = a half hour
Student or Learner
I would like to know the meaning of "It" in the next sentence.
It took a half hour to get there.
It = a half hour
> "It is raining."
> "It's a shame to miss this concert."
> "It's a wonderful life."
Here is what Wiki has to say about this pronoun:
A dummy pronoun (formally: expletive pronoun or pleonastic pronoun) is a type of pronoun used in non-pro-drop languages, such as English.
It is used when a particular verb argument (or preposition) is nonexistent, unknown, irrelevant, already understood, or otherwise not to be spoken of directly, but when a reference to the argument (a pronoun) is nevertheless syntactically required.
For instance, in the phrase, "It is obvious that the violence will continue," "it" is a dummy pronoun, not referring to any agent.
Unlike a regular pronoun of English, it cannot be replaced by any noun phrase.
Not really. You wrote a paraphrase of the sentence, but "the time required to get there" is not a perfect replacement for this "it."
Dummy "it" doesn't really have a noun it refers to, so a noun phrase can't be substituted for it directly.
But in this case, the word "it" has a clear referent, and the noun can exactly substitute for the pronoun:
"Where is the key?"
"It is on the counter" = "The key is on the counter."
This is not a paraphrase.
What would you do with the expression "It is raining"?
I know you can paraphrase the sentence to express its meaning in different words, but you can't come up with a noun that can be substituted for "it."
In many cases it is used in such a way that it is not possible to point to something specifically referred to:
1.Weather it: with verbs concerning weather conditions:
It is cold today.
It is raining / snowing / freezing.
It is cloudy / warm / wet.
2.Time it: with expressions of time:
It's half past six.
It is Sunday tomorrow.
It was a long time before he came to.
3.Space it: with expressions of measurement:
It is a long way to San Francisco.
How far is it to Charing Cross?
a) In idiomatic phrases as the object of verbs:
*to have it out with somebody: settle a dispute by open discussion.
After weeks of silent hostility they've at last had it out with each other.
*let somebody have it: punish somebody.
I'll let him have it, hot and strong.
*Hang it all: damn something.
Hang it all, we can't wait all day for him.
*to rough it: to live in a a very simple way for a while without all the normal comforts of life.
If you go camping, you'll have to rough it.
b) With verbs derived from nouns without the addition of any ending.
I usually bus it to work in the morning. (= travel by bus)
We can foot it quite easily.
c) In prepositional phrases:
We'll make a day of it. (= to cause an activity to last a day)
When the thieves saw the policeman, they ran for it. (= run in order to escape from sb/sth)
5. In impersonal statements: it is often used to identify an unknown person.
Someone was moving stealthily about the room; it was a burglar.
Who is it? It's me, Alex. / It's us, Alex and Mike.
If that's still not good, (or still too unorthodox a way of thinking) then I would say this: The time required to get there is a half hour. It (meaning the time of the trip or journey) takes (with take meaning required) a half hour to get there.
As for "It's raining", the verb "rain" is an impersonal verb, and the action of "raining" can't be attributed to a person, a sentient being, or an entity (well that may depend on one's belief system in some cases). This leaves us without a noun with which we can identify the doer of the action "rain". We can't use personal pronouns in this case. So we use "it", which is impersonal, and goes well with impersonal weather verbs such as "rain" and "snow", as well as with conditions, as in "it's cloudy" or "it's cold".
Some other langauges don't always require a subject, so there's no need to use an impersonal pronoun in some other some languages for sentences like "it's raining.
I suppose we could say the same of the sentence in question: It took a half hour to get there. We could say that the function of "it" is impersonal. However, I think it's possible to view this in a slightly different way than "it's raining", in my opinion that is.
What is it? It is the time you need. The trip occupies a half hour. It takes a half hour. The trip takes a half hour. But here we can't finish with "to get there", so we're bacl to "it": It takes a half hour.
In any event, I think this slightly different viewpoint does something to help a learner's understanding of "it" in the sentence in question, other than simply saying the sentence requires a subject, which is our only choice in "it's raining".
Last edited by PROESL; 16-Sep-2009 at 17:47.
It was my impression that the original question was not so much "What does this sentence mean?" as "What part of speech, what kind of word, is the word "it" in this sentence?"