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    #1

    Smile Use of it, pronouns help

    Hello,

    I know I posted a thread before on this question, and despite getting really useful answers, I still don't understand. There are times when I don't know if I should use 'it' or not. Take for example: 'If there is something that I know, it's that cats are good animals'. What I understood from the answers I received was that there are two clauses in that sentence., (I don't really understand a lot, all I know is that a clause has a subject and a verb, but I honestly can't tell when I have two clauses) and that 'it' meant 'something that I know'. I thought I had started to understand, but then I heard a singer singing 'Just because I'm losing, doesn't mean I'm lost'. I'm even more confused now, I honestly don't understand - why doesn't the second phrase use 'it'? Why can't it be, 'it doesn't mean that I'm lost'.?? And why does the first one need the 'it' pronoun?? I still don't understand why.
    I'm now even unsure about phrases like ( for example) 'You have to do what you think is right' and/ or similar ones. I know I shouldn't use 'it', it doesn't sound right to me and I've never used the pronoun 'it' in these types of short phrases but I'm seriously getting all mixed up with the 'it' problem.

    Thanks in advance.

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    #2

    Re: Use of it, pronouns help

    In songs, people often use things that would be ungrammatical in ordinary language- they have to change things to fit the tune, etc.

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    #3

    Re: Use of it, pronouns help

    I am not a teacher.

    Native speakers have trouble with that. What you heard in the song (Just because I'm losing doesn't mean I'm lost) is natural colloquial American English, but it is bad grammar. So much the worse for grammar. Grammarians make that "That I am losing doesn't mean I'm lost", with the complement clause "that I am losing" as subject. The version with "just because" has nothing in it that can act as the subject of "does not mean", technically, but we hear "just because I'm losing" as a kind of noun clause equivalent to "the fact that I am losing", which has a noun. It hurts the ears of grammarians because "just because" should be followed by a clause in the same pronoun or noun: "Just because I am losing, I am not lost", which is nothing more than an inversion of "I am not lost just because I am losing."

    Your "it" would help a little, giving the second clause a subject, but a problem would remain. The "it" would have for an antecedent the same clause we refused to accept as a noun.

    I suggest you sit down and learn what a clause is. It is not that hard, and it will help your understanding of grammar a lot.

  1. Soup's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Use of it, pronouns help

    Hello Bleiva,

    On its own, the sentence I think it is true is grammatical. Omit the pronoun it, however, and the sentence becomes ungrammatical (*I think is true). So why, then, is it grammatical in sentence [1] below?


    [1] I have to believe in what I think is true.


    The answer (how to tell when to add it and when not to add it) is in the structure of the sentences your are dealing with, and here's how you build that structure:

    First, replace the pronoun it; with the word something, like this,


    • I think it is true.
    • I think something is true.


    Second, move the word something to the front of the sentence:


    • I think something is true.
    • ... something I think is true.


    Third, add on the rest of the sentence:


    • ... something I think is true.
    • I have to believe in something I think is true.



    To review in reverse:

    • I have to believe in something I think is true.
    • ... something I think is true.
    • I think something is true.
    • I think it is true.


    You see, the pronoun it is there, but as the word something which has been moved. This kind of structure is called a cleft, cleft-sentences.

    Now let's take a look at the other examples you submitted as they follow the same pattern.


    [2] You have to do something you think is right.

    • You think it is right. (pronoun it)
    • You think something is right (replaced)
    • ... something you think is right. (moved)

    [3] There are things we cannot say are true.

    • We cannot say they are true. (pronoun they)
    • We cannot say things are true. (replaced)
    • ... things we cannot say are true. (moved)

    [4] If there is something I know, it is that cats are good.

    • I know it.
    • I know something.
    • ... something I know.
    The last part of the sentence (it is that cats are good) is not part of I know. There are two sentences here:


    • I know it. It is that cats are good. (different pronouns)
    • There is something I know. It is that cats are good.


    And two clauses here:


    • If there is something I know, it is that cats are good.


    The comma (,) marks a division between the two clauses: an dependent one (If there is something I know) and an independent one (it is that cats are good), a pattern possible in the song lyric you submitted:


    [5a] Just because I am losing, it doesn't mean I am lost.


    Adding in it is possible if we view Just because I am losing as an independent-like clause (note the comma). Not adding in it is also possible with Just because I am losing as the subject of the sentence (note there is no comma):


    [5b] Just because I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.

    Adding the pronoun it to [5b] would make the sentence ungrammatical because the sentence already has a subject. It doesn't need two subjects. The rule is one subject per clause.


    • Just because I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    • Just because I am losing, it doesn't mean I am lost.


    _____________________
    Clauses are easy to find. Look for a verb. If there's a verb, there's a clause.

    I see 4 clauses below, not 2. The verbs are in bold and the subjects are underlined.


    • If there is something I know it is that cats are good animals.

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    #5

    Smile Re: Use of it, pronouns help

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Hello Bleiva,

    On its own, the sentence I think it is true is grammatical. Omit the pronoun it, however, and the sentence becomes ungrammatical (*I think is true). So why, then, is it grammatical in sentence [1] below?


    [1] I have to believe in what I think is true.


    The answer (how to tell when to add it and when not to add it) is in the structure of the sentences your are dealing with, and here's how you build that structure:

    First, replace the pronoun it; with the word something, like this,


    • I think it is true.
    • I think something is true.


    Second, move the word something to the front of the sentence:


    • I think something is true.
    • ... something I think is true.


    Third, add on the rest of the sentence:


    • ... something I think is true.
    • I have to believe in something I think is true.



    To review in reverse:

    • I have to believe in something I think is true.
    • ... something I think is true.
    • I think something is true.
    • I think it is true.


    You see, the pronoun it is there, but as the word something which has been moved. This kind of structure is called a cleft, cleft-sentences.

    Now let's take a look at the other examples you submitted as they follow the same pattern.


    [2] You have to do something you think is right.

    • You think it is right. (pronoun it)
    • You think something is right (replaced)
    • ... something you think is right. (moved)

    [3] There are things we cannot say are true.

    • We cannot say they are true. (pronoun they)
    • We cannot say things are true. (replaced)
    • ... things we cannot say are true. (moved)

    [4] If there is something I know, it is that cats are good.

    • I know it.
    • I know something.
    • ... something I know.
    The last part of the sentence (it is that cats are good) is not part of I know. There are two sentences here:


    • I know it. It is that cats are good. (different pronouns)
    • There is something I know. It is that cats are good.


    And two clauses here:


    • If there is something I know, it is that cats are good.


    The comma (,) marks a division between the two clauses: an dependent one (If there is something I know) and an independent one (it is that cats are good), a pattern possible in the song lyric you submitted:


    [5a] Just because I am losing, it doesn't mean I am lost.


    Adding in it is possible if we view Just because I am losing as an independent-like clause (note the comma). Not adding in it is also possible with Just because I am losing as the subject of the sentence (note there is no comma):


    [5b] Just because I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.

    Adding the pronoun it to [5b] would make the sentence ungrammatical because the sentence already has a subject. It doesn't need two subjects. The rule is one subject per clause.


    • Just because I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    • Just because I am losing, it doesn't mean I am lost.


    _____________________
    Clauses are easy to find. Look for a verb. If there's a verb, there's a clause.

    I see 4 clauses below, not 2. The verbs are in bold and the subjects are underlined.


    • If there is something I know it is that cats are good animals.
    WOW, Soup, you're still operational, so to speak. I had thought you would never be back.

    Neat and tidy, your answers, as usual.

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    #6

    Smile Re: Use of it, pronouns help

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post
    Hello Bleiva,

    On its own, the sentence I think it is true is grammatical. Omit the pronoun it, however, and the sentence becomes ungrammatical (*I think is true). So why, then, is it grammatical in sentence [1] below?


    [1] I have to believe in what I think is true.


    The answer (how to tell when to add it and when not to add it) is in the structure of the sentences your are dealing with, and here's how you build that structure:

    First, replace the pronoun it; with the word something, like this,


    • I think it is true.
    • I think something is true.


    Second, move the word something to the front of the sentence:


    • I think something is true.
    • ... something I think is true.


    Third, add on the rest of the sentence:


    • ... something I think is true.
    • I have to believe in something I think is true.



    To review in reverse:

    • I have to believe in something I think is true.
    • ... something I think is true.
    • I think something is true.
    • I think it is true.


    You see, the pronoun it is there, but as the word something which has been moved. This kind of structure is called a cleft, cleft-sentences.

    Now let's take a look at the other examples you submitted as they follow the same pattern.


    [2] You have to do something you think is right.

    • You think it is right. (pronoun it)
    • You think something is right (replaced)
    • ... something you think is right. (moved)

    [3] There are things we cannot say are true.

    • We cannot say they are true. (pronoun they)
    • We cannot say things are true. (replaced)
    • ... things we cannot say are true. (moved)

    [4] If there is something I know, it is that cats are good.

    • I know it.
    • I know something.
    • ... something I know.
    The last part of the sentence (it is that cats are good) is not part of I know. There are two sentences here:


    • I know it. It is that cats are good. (different pronouns)
    • There is something I know. It is that cats are good.


    And two clauses here:


    • If there is something I know, it is that cats are good.


    The comma (,) marks a division between the two clauses: an dependent one (If there is something I know) and an independent one (it is that cats are good), a pattern possible in the song lyric you submitted:


    [5a] Just because I am losing, it doesn't mean I am lost.


    Adding in it is possible if we view Just because I am losing as an independent-like clause (note the comma). Not adding in it is also possible with Just because I am losing as the subject of the sentence (note there is no comma):


    [5b] Just because I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.

    Adding the pronoun it to [5b] would make the sentence ungrammatical because the sentence already has a subject. It doesn't need two subjects. The rule is one subject per clause.


    • Just because I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    • Just because I am losing, it doesn't mean I am lost.


    _____________________
    Clauses are easy to find. Look for a verb. If there's a verb, there's a clause.

    I see 4 clauses below, not 2. The verbs are in bold and the subjects are underlined.


    • If there is something I know it is that cats are good animals.
    Dear Soup,

    Thank you so much for your extremely useful post. Your organized, easy to follow step-by-step explanation was really, really helpful - and I think I'm starting to understand. I now see that, if, for example, I added "it" in "I have to believe in what I think is true", it would be incorrect, for "what" is already the subject of the sentence (exactly the same as your "something" examples). I've never had problems with this until now after hearing the "If there is something I know, it's that..." sentences (after hearing one of them I got confused). However, after understanding that that sentence is made up of two different "parts", it was easier to understand why I needed the "it".
    However, I still have some questions. I hope I'm not bothering you too much with them.

    1.- In the "Just because I'm losing doesn't mean I'm lost" example (without the comma). Why is "Just because I'm losing" the subject? I mean, if I replace all that phrase with "it", it sounds perfectly fine to me; it would be something like, "It doesn't mean I'm lost", right? But, since the "it" is not in the sentence (explicitly) I got a bit confused...

    2.- In the, "If there is something I know, it's that cats are good." example, what would happen if there wasn't a comma there? Would it have to be, "If there is something I know is that cats are good", or would it have to be, "If there is something I know it's that cats are good" all the same? (By the way, is "would it have" in this case grammatical?)

    3.- Finally, I heard this on TV: "What's important is that young boys..." (I can't remember the rest of the sentence). "What's important" is the subject of the sentence, right? Therefore, the "it" is not needed in this case. (??)

    Thank you so much. !!!

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    #7

    Re: Use of it, pronouns help

    Hello Bleiva,

    You're most welcome and I am more than happy to answer any of your questions.

    In answer to your first question (Why is "Just because I'm losing" the subject?), the word-order tell us so. English is a subject+verb+object language. What that means is that the subject comes before the verb here:


    [6a] Just because I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    [6b] The fact that I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    [6c] The fact I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    [6d] That I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    [6e] It doesn't mean I am lost.


    Note that, the phrase Just because ([6a])is another way of saying the fact that ([6b]), which is often shortened to the fact ([6c]) or even just that ([6d]), and that all of those (Just because, The fact, That) act as nouns, and that all of them take an object, the clause I am losing. Together they form a larger noun, a noun clause:

    [a] Just because I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    [b] The fact that I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    [c] The fact I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    [d] That I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    [e] It doesn't mean I am lost.


    Now, pronouns replace nouns, which is why the pronoun it ([e]) can replace all the subjects (nouns) in sentences [a] through [d].

    To review, Just because I am losing is a subject (it comes before the verb). It is a noun clause made up of a substantive noun (Just because) that takes a clause as its object (I am losing), and together they form a larger clause, a noun clause. Nouns can be replaced by the pronoun it, which gives us:

    • Just because I am losing doesn't mean I am lost.
    • It doesn't mean I am lost.

    Let's take a look at your second question (What would happen if there wasn't a comma?).


    [7a] If there is something I know, it is that cats are good.


    Punctuation marks are traffic signs for readers: they help us navigate the meaning of a sentence. Leaving out the comma in [7a] doesn't change the sentence's meaning:


    [7b] If there is something I know it is that cats are good.


    So, yes, you could leave the comma out, but writing norms require it, so it's best to leave it in; however, leave out a word and the result is this:


    [7c] If there is something I know is that cats are good.


    In sentence [7c], there are 3 subjects (there, I, cats) and 4 verbs (is, know, is, are). The count is uneven: we are missing a subject. The verb is doesn't have a subject. It needs one:


    [7d] If there is something I know it is that cats are good.

    Even with the missing comma, sentence [7d] still makes sense.

    To review, the comma in our example marks a division. It tells us, "Stop. The next word (it) is not connected to the previous word (know)." (By the way, you used 'Would it have to be" correctly.)

    In answer to your third and last question ("What's important" is the subject of the sentence, right? Therefore, the "it" is not needed in this case), right and right again. The word What in What is important stands for a larger bit, something like, say, The issue that is important, similar to our example with Just because which stands for a larger bit, The fact that. They act as nouns and so can be replaced by the pronoun it:

    [8a] What's important is that young boys eat well.
    [8b] The issue that is important is that young boys eat well.
    [8c] It is important that young boys eat well.


    In review, subjects are nouns. To find the subject, look for the verb. If the verb has a subject, then don't add in it, and if the verb doesn't have a subject, then look for movement, as in example [9] below. There are 3 verbs (have, think, is) and 2 subjects (I, I). The count is off, or rather appears to be off: it looks like the verb is is missing its subject. But it's not:


    [9] I have to believe in what I think is true. (moved)

    • ...what I think is true. (subject of the verb is)
    • I think what is true. (subject of the verb is)
    • I think it is true. (subject of the verb is)

    The verb is has a subject; it's what, and it's been moved, so don't add in another subject (the pronoun it) as that would make the sentence ungrammatical:


    [10] I have to believe in what I think it is true.

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