English clauses always have a subject:

His father has just retired. Was a teacher. > He was a teacher.
I’m waiting for my wife. Is late. > She is late.
Look at the time! Is half past two.> It’s half past two.

except for the imperative (see more)

Go away.
Play it again please.

If we have no other subject we use there or it.

there

We use there as a dummy subject with part of the verb be followed by a noun phrase. (see Clauses, sentences and phrases):

• to introduce a new topic:

There is a meeting this evening. It will start at seven.
There has been an accident. I hope no one is hurt.

• with numbers or quantities:

There was a lot of rain last night.
There must have been more than five hundred in the audience.

• to say where something is:

There used to be a playground at the end of the street.
There are fairies at the bottom of the garden.
I wonder if there will be anyone at home.

• with an indefinite pronoun or expressions of quantity and the to-infinitive:

There is nothing to do in the village.
There was plenty to read in the apartment
There was nothing to watch on television.
There is a lot of work to do

If we want to show the subject of the to-infinitive we use for:

There is nothing for the children to do in the village.
There was plenty for us to read in the apartment
There was nothing for them to watch on television.
There is a lot of work for you to do.

• with an indefinite pronoun or expressions of quantity and an -ing verb:

There is someone waiting to see you.
There were a lot of people shouting and waving.

We use a singular verb if the noun phrase is singular:

There is a meeting this evening. It will start at seven.
There was a lot of rain last night.
There is someone waiting to see you.

We use a plural verb if the noun phrase is plural:

There are more than twenty people waiting to see you.
There were some biscuits in the cupboard.
There were a lot of people shouting and waving.
 

It

We use it to talk about:

• times and dates:

It’s nearly one o’clock.
It’s my birthday.

• weather:

It’s raining.
It’s a lovely day.
It was getting cold.

• to give an opinion about a place:

It’s very cold in here.
It will be nice when we get home.
It’s very comfortable in my new apartment.

• to give an opinion followed by to-infinitive:

It’s nice to meet you.
It will be great to go on holiday.
It was interesting to meet your brother at last.

• to give an opinion followed by an -ing verb:

It’s great living in Spain.
It’s awful driving in this heavy traffic.
It can be hard work looking after young children.

  

Using "it" to talk about people

We use it to talk about ourselves:

• on the telephone:

Hello. It’s George.

• when people cannot see us:

[Mary knocks on door] It’s me. It’s Mary.

We use it to talk about other people:

• when we point them out for the first time:

Look. It’s Sir Paul McCartney.
Who’s that? I think it’s John’s brother.

• when we cannot see them and we ask them for their name:

[telephone rings, we pick it up] Hello. Who is it?
[someone knocks on door. We say:] Who is it

 

Task 1

 Exercise

Task 2

 Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hello,
Why we use indefenite article in this clause? We can't use definite article with "there"?
There is a party at Nick’s tonight.

Hello Elmar,

It's possible to use 'the' here. The indefinite article is more common, though, since 'there is' is often used to announce an event. If you use 'the', the party has already been mentioned previously in the conversation in some way.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply. I already understood given above but yet I not understood this clause:
There is the/a book on the table.
Which article we use in the above clause? "The" or "a"? We not mentioned previously but we know exactly what is book. Example, I know the book is physics book and I say: "There is the book is on the table". This is correct?

Hello Elmar,

Unless you or the people you are speaking to have already specifically mentioned the book on the table, 'a' would probably be the correct article to use here. I say 'probably correct' because it really depends on what your intentions are.

If you use 'the' and it hasn't been mentioned previously in your conversation, it could imply, for example, that you think the other people are ignoring what you see as very obvious, i.e. the book on the table.

Our choice of an article is really about whether we regard a subject as one that has been mentioned or not in our conversation. It can be quite difficult to learn to use them correctly in English but the good news is that if you make a mistake with them, it doesn't usually cause any major problems in terms of comprehension.

I hope this helps you. If you still feel unsure about it, you're welcome to ask again, but I'd also encourage you to pay special attention to how they are used as you read and listen to English. Ask us about uses you don't understand. Over time, I think you'll understand how they are used more of the time. And finally, you might also consider taking a class where you live, as a teacher would be able to help you in person much more effectively.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot, Kirk! I already understood.

Which would be correct? 'It rained' or 'It's rained?'

Hello Urmila,

That really depends on the context. Both of them can be correct in different situations. Our talking about the past page should help you decide which is best for the context you have in mind. But if, after reading through the explanation you're still not sure, feel free to ask us, though please explain the context to us and what you think the correct form is.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks!

Would be wrong to say:
It has been an accident.
Instead of: There has been an accident.

Hello pcultural,

Yes, 'It has been an accident' is not correct. Here you are introducing a new topic (announcing something that has happened) and 'an accident' is a noun phrase. These are two clues that can help you choose 'there' instead of 'it'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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