It / There

Refer to weather, time, or existence

rain on glass


It — Weather, Time and Existence


Use it as the subject of a sentence when talking about occurrences of nature such as weather, time, and distance. It is singular in agreement with the verb.

Is it still raining?  It's cloudy.   (the weather)

It was 4 o'clock.    (the time)

It's my birthday today.     (the time)

It is over 450 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles.    (the distance)

It gets dark very early in the winter.    (occurrence of nature)

It has been three years since I last saw her.    (the time)





There has no particular meaning besides the existence of something. It is a placeholder for the subject position in a clause.  There is commonly followed by a be verb or a modal.  The sentence can usually be restated in a simpler way without there.

Is there rain on the street still?    (Rain is on the street.)

There was a clock on the wall.      (A clock is on the wall.)

There was a birthday party.   (A birthday party occurred.)

There are no high-speed trains between S.F and L.A.   (doesn't exist)

There isn't much daylight here in the winter.  (Daylight doesn't occur much in the winter.)

There must be a reason for her absence.   (A reason for her absence exists.)

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.   (A knock occurred on the door.)

There are several questions we need to answer. (Several questions exist that we need to answer.)

There must be easier ways of doing this.  (Easier ways of doing this exist.) 


Related pages:

It Subj Placeholder  — That he is very funny. → It is obvious that he is very funny.

"It is" + Adj + Infin — Finding the answers is hard. → It is hard to find the answers.

"It takes" + Infinitive — To get ready takes ten minutes. → It takes ten minutes to get ready.







Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions




Error and Solution


There had been a long time since they saw each other. 

It's nothing in the refrigerator. It's empty.  

It have over 10 million people in my city.  


It had been a long time since they saw each other. (time expression)

There's nothing in the refrigerator. It's empty. (existence)

There are over 10 million people in my city.







Practice 1

The Long Absence


Read the Context

Once upon a time, [it / there] was a man who left home to go hunting with his dog. However, he did not return. His family looked everywhere for him, but they could not find him. After a long while, his wife told her children, "[It / There] is time for us to get used to the fact that he may not be coming back, at least not soon."

A year and a half passed. Then one evening, [it / there] was a knock at the door. Because [it / there] was dark and raining outside, the children did not want to open the door. They looked through the little window in the door. [It / There] was a bearded man leaning on his walking stick with a bag over his shoulder. 

He asked, "May I come in? [It / There] has been a long time since I have rested."

The children replied, "[It / There] is rather late and we have little food."

The man said, "I don't need food, just a place for my dog and me to rest."

The mother came and looked through the opening of the door. Even though [it / there] was dark, she recognized the man's dog.   [It / There] was a black spot over each eye of the dog, very much like their old dog who disappeared.

"Come closer to the door," the woman said, "and let me look at you."

She opened the door and held a light up so that she could see him.  "Where have you been?" she exclaimed, " [It / There] has been over a year since we last saw you. You went hunting for some hares."

"Yes, [it / there] is a long story," he replied, "After foreign soldiers took me, I was freed by resistance fighters. I became one on them." 

The woman looked him in the eye, "Well…did you bring us some fat hares to eat?"

"I did," he smiled, "[It / There] are two hares in my bag."

"Then come in," said the woman as she welcomed him in, "[It / There] is time to eat."

"Children, come meet your baba. I am home," said the man. — June 1945 Crete

absence (N) — not being in a place

baba (N) — Greek word for papa.

Crete — a large island in the Mediterranean belonging to Greece

foreign — not from one's own country

get used to (v.p.) — become accustomed to

hare (N) — a food animal similar to a rabbit

over a year (expression) — more than a year

resistance (N) — the state of going against; fighters against invaders





Determine which pronoun to use—it or there?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
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