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Special Types of Subjects

While most subjects are nouns or pronouns, some special exceptions exist.

The construction there is frequently begins English sentences and clauses.

  • There is someone waiting here to see you.
  • There are many possible answers to this question.
  • I told him that there were no more tickets available.

There is the subject, but it is not a noun or pronoun. In this kind of usage, there is an expletive. In grammatical terms, an expletive is a word that has a grammatical function in a sentence but has no meaning of its own. Other expletives are the it of the construction it is, discussed later, and the auxiliary do when it is used to form the negative or question form of a verb.

By itself, there is neither singular nor plural, but it can be followed by the singular verb is or the plural verb are. The form of the verb is determined by the noun that follows there.

  • There are some pencils (plural) in the drawer.
  • There is letter (singular) for you from the IRS.

Other possible combinations involve tense or mood: there was/were (past), there will (future), there would (modal), and so on.

The construction it is functions much like there is.

  • It is difficult to explain why this sentence works.
  • I do not want to go out because it is raining.
  • It will be important for him to manage his time.

It is does not have a plural form, but can vary for tense or mood: it was, it will, it would, and so on.

The it of the construction it is is an expletive. This expletive it might look like a pronoun, but it is not because it does not replace or refer to a noun. The same is true of the it that appears as the subject of these sentences:

  • It appears that the recession is over.
  • It seems that he did not want to retire after all.
  • It does not matter what you do.

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