Uses of the impersonal pronoun it

It is the only impersonal pronoun in English. The following are some of the important uses of it.

It can be used as a subject to an impersonal verb.

  • It is raining.
  • It is snowing on the mountains.
  • It is Sunday today.
  • ‘What is the time now?’ ‘It is 5 o’clock.’
  • It is always cloudy on the hills.

The pronoun it is used as a provisional subject, when the real subject is an infinitive.

  • It is not easy to defeat him. (More natural than ‘To defeat him is not easy.’)
  • It is dangerous to play with fire. (More natural than ‘To play with fire is dangerous.’)

It is used to represent a noun in the neuter gender.

  • I am taking the meat back to the shop because it isn’t good.

It can be used to represent a young baby of either sex.

  • The baby is crying. It must be hungry.
  • I did not disturb the child because it was sleeping.

It can also be used for small and domestic animals.

  • I love my dog. It is almost human.
  • I will not sell my cow because it yields 10 litres of milk every day.

It is used as an emphasizer before a noun or a pronoun.

  • It was Susie who painted this picture.
  • It was John who broke the window.
  • It was Nancy who made the cake.
  • It was the Prime Minister who made this announcement.

It can be used to refer to a preceding statement.

  • Jack was maltreated by his uncle; and he could not forget it all his life.