Lecture 29
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Lecture 29. It - Patterns. 29.1 Empty it and anticipatory it It may be useful to give a summary of the chief uses of empty it and anticipatory it .

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Lecture 29

Lecture29

It - Patterns


  • 29.1 Empty it and anticipatory it

    It may be useful to give a summary of the chief uses of empty it and anticipatory it.


Empty itEmpty it does not refer to anything, as distinguished from the third person singular, neutral pronoun. It is meaningless and is chiefly used as formal subject in sentences denoting time, place, distance, and atmospheric conditions.


Empty it , as formal subject, also occurs in sentences denoting a general situation, e.g.:It has fared well with him.It was dull when Mary was away.


Empty it also occurs in some idioms where it functions as formal object or prepositional complementation, e.g.:You will catch it for breaking the glasses.Jack has a hard time of it.


2) Anticipatory itanticipatory it commonly occurs in sentences with a nominal clause as subject or object.


The subject/ object clauses is usually shifted to the end of the sentence, leaving the vacancy to be filled in by an anticipatory it. The extraposed subject / object may be a finite clause or a non-finite clause.


For this kind of subject/object, extraposition is more frequent than its natural position, e.g.:It was not known whether there was gold left in the mine.He made it clear that he didn’t want to speak to me.


29.2 It as introductory word of cleft sentences frequent than its natural position, e.g.:1) Cleft sentence definedA cleft sentence is an emphatic construction with non0referring it as formal subject.


The general pattern of a cleft sentence is as follows it be focal element that who clause
The general pattern of a cleft sentence is as follows: frequent than its natural position, e.g.:It + be + focal element + that/ who-clause



Generally speaking, except the predicator, almost all the elements of a statement can be singled out as the focal element .


The predicator may be a simple form of the verb be; it may also be a complex verb phrase with a form of the verb be as headword:It was then that he gave her a bag.It might have been then that he gave her a bag.


There are restrictions on the use of subject complement as focal element, but in the case of object complement, there is no such restriction, e.g.:He is intelligent.*It is intelligent that he is.


2) Introductory it in cleft sentence vs. anticipatory it focal element, but in the case of object complement, there is no such restriction, e.g.:The introductory it of a cleft sentence is functionally different from an anticipatory it: the introductory it does not stand for any extraposed subject, while an anticipatory it does.


3)Pseudo-cleft sentences focal element, but in the case of object complement, there is no such restriction, e.g.:If we want to spotlight the verb phrase, we will have to use what is called “pseudo-cleft sentence”.


I gave her a handbag. focal element, but in the case of object complement, there is no such restriction, e.g.:What I did was (to) give her a handbag.He will be taking a plane to Beijing.What he will be doing is taking a plane to Beijing.He has given her a handbag.What he has done is to give / give / given her a handbag.


Another type is composed of “what clause + be + noun phrase”:what he gave her was a handbag.A handbag was what he gave her.


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