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  1. nyota's Avatar
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    #1

    There and it

    In English Grammar in Use (There and it - Murphy - Google books) Murphy states that we use it to talk about distance, time and weather e.g.
    It's a long way from here to the airport.
    It's a long time since I last saw you.
    It was windy (but 'There was a cold wind')***
    We also use it in reference to a particular place, fact, situation etc., and there when we talk about something for the first time, to say that it exists.
    Now - I've got two examples that I don't think fall so clearly into only one of these categories i.e.
    1) I couldn't see anything. It was completely dark.

    How to explain the use of 'it' within given guidelines here? It doesn't really refer to anything in particular, perhaps the situation on the whole. But then in the following example - The journey took a long time. There was a lot of traffic. we also refer to the whole situation and yet we use 'there'. It's like the fact we're also giving new information is more important here.

    The second example:
    2) I wanted to visit the museum but there wasn't enough time.

    Here, we're talking about time (which suggests the use of 'it') but we also give new information which calls for 'there', which is actually the right choice.

    Is it so that in the two examples (which are by the way taken from the same chapter from the exercises section) are just a bit more ambiguous and they don't comply so clearly with the rules given and so, I should assume that some of the it-there choices have to be learnt as fixed phrases? Example marked with *** seems to confirm that. What do you think?
    Last edited by nyota; 26-Oct-2011 at 20:41.

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    #2

    Re: There and it

    Thanks for the question! I'll leave a post so as to be subscribed :) I remember myself racking my brain over the examples from that unit and trying to come up with a logical explanation. Failed.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: There and it

    I’ll attempt to look at a couple of your questions after some introductory idea in red.

    It (1). We use it as a pronoun in reference to a particular place, fact, situation etc, just as we use he and she for a particular person.

    Have you seen that new hotel? It’s very posh.
    Have you seen the new teacher? She looks very young.
    Paul got drunk again last night. It made me very angry.

    It (2). We use it as an ‘empty’ subject when we are speaking about

    ambient light – it’s bright, gloomy, dark, etc;.
    distances - How far is it to the motorway? It’s ten kilometres.
    temperatures- It must be thirty-five (degrees outside today. It’s hot/cold/freezing, etc.
    time points and periods It’s five o’clock/Tuesday/ the eighteenth. It’s been six hours since he left.
    Weather It’s windy, raining, snowing, etc.

    There. If we are talking about the existence of something, we generally prefer not to begin the sentence with the real subject, but to introduce it with there is/are:

    There’s some beer in the fridge (rather than: Some beer is in the fridge)
    1) I couldn't see anything. It was completely dark.

    How to explain the use of 'it' within given guidelines here.
    ‘It’ refers to ambient light, which could be grouped with (ambient) temperature and (weather) conditions.
    But then in the following example - The journey took a long time. There was a lot of traffic. we also refer to the whole situation and yet we use 'there'. It's like the fact we're also giving new information is more important here.
    The journey took a long time; it was boring.(the journey, or the situation) There was a lot of traffic.(The existence of something). We are not actually referring to the journey as such, but the existence of something incidental. If, however we use an adjective, we say It was very busy (the situation).
    2) I wanted to visit the museum but there wasn't enough time.

    Here, we're talking about time (which suggests the use of 'it') but we also give new information which calls for 'there', which is actually the right choice.
    We are talking about the non-existence of something – an amount of time.


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    #4

    Re: There and it

    Quote Originally Posted by Verona_82 View Post
    Thanks for the question! I'll leave a post so as to be subscribed :) I remember myself racking my brain over the examples from that unit and trying to come up with a logical explanation. Failed.
    Off topic.

    You can subscribe to a thread without admiting that you don't know the answer by clicking the appropriate button on the Thread Tools menu right above the first post. I often do this and think to myself, "Ha! Now everyone will think I know the answer but simply didn't have the time to post it." And yes, I know it's ridiculous.

  3. nyota's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: There and it

    If you add 'ambient light' to the set of' distance, time, and weather', which all take 'it', then yes, definitely, it makes the choice in example 1 clear. Without it, however, extending 'weather conditions' over 'light and darkness' seems a bit strained.

    Also, if you make the category 'time' more precise the way you did, 5jj, (i.e. that 'it' goes with time points and periods), the choice in (2) also makes more sense.

    2) I wanted to visit the museum but there wasn't enough time.

    BUT

    Is it time to go? Yes, it's nearly midnight. (= we're asking/talking about a particular point in time)
    It's a long time since I last saw you. (=period of time)

    I would definitely want to add this information to my Murphy. It makes some examples (especially no. (2)) not contradict the rules given on an adjacent page.

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