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Subject, Techniques

Note 92 – What is a dummy subject?

I’ve never really stopped to analyse what the words it and there mean at the start of a sentence.  Today I learnt that they are dummy subjects giving no information about the sentence.  The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation by John Seely explains that it and there “simply serve to start the sentence off”.


  • It was raining on Tuesday
  • It always feels cold in the house
  • There was toffee all over the settee
  • There isn’t any food in the house

In most sentences, like the ones below, the subject tells the reader what the sentence will be about:

  • The man said hello to the small dog
  • The garage was full of junk

Is it a good idea to use dummy subjects?

Starting your sentence with a dummy subject can sometimes (but not always) weaken your writing and make it unclear.  It is suggested in the daily writing tips website that you should avoid the use of dummy subjects unless you don’t know who is carrying out the action.  The site also give examples of two sentences where the word it is used at the beginning of the second sentence.  In my example below, the word it (in the second sentence) refers to ‘the dancing’ in the first sentence:

Gabriella went dancing at the community centre.  It was really good. 

There’s not much else I can say about dummy subjects, but I will be looking out for it a bit more from now on, and possibly not using it so much myself. 

Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s blog.  I have now completed 3 months of my writing challenge which means I am 25% of the way there!  A big thank you to my regular readers for your continued support and welcome to any newcomers today.

Until tomorrow…


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My website: (includes the introduction to my book ‘A Gift for Stressed and Busy Parents’)

Twitter: @madeirasandra and @tipsandluxuries

Reference list:

John Seely  The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, USA


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


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