General English Level 4 V 3
UNIT 04 What happened? TOPIC 02 It was terrible
LANGUAGE FOCUS 05 The impersonal 'it'
Usually we use 'it' to refer to something that has already been mentioned. For example, "The fire was very big. It destroyed many homes." In this example "it refers to the fire. Here, 'it' is a personal pronoun.
Sometimes however we use 'it' when we are not referring back to anything. This use of 'it' is called the impersonal 'it'.
The announcer says:
Announcer:
It's 9 o'clock. Let's go to Brad Furniss, who's at the scene of yesterday's bushfires.
Dave says:
Dave:
Yes it was about 10 o'clock then. …

 

In these examples it means the time but it does not refer to any noun. We can use it as the subject of a sentence to talk about time.

Brad says:
Brad:
Good morning. Well, it's a day after the fires and I'm standing …

 

This is another example when we use it to talk about time. We often use it to talk about time - the day, date, month, year

It is
12 o'clock.
was Tuesday…
was March, 2001…
is early in the morning…
Maureen says:
Maureen:
It was really hot and the wind was blowing the fire towards us.

 

When Maureen says, "It was really hot…", she means the weather. We often use it as the subject of a sentence to talk about the weather.

It is
a nice day.
was cold last night.
has been raining a lot lately.
isn't very hot today.
Maureen says:
Maureen:
… I can't believe what's happened. It's a nightmare.
 
Maureen: … I grabbed the hose and tried to stop the fire but it was hopeless.

 

When Maureen says, "It's a nightmare", she is talking about everything that has happened to her. She uses it to talk about the situation.
When Maureen says, "it was hopeless", she is talking about her efforts to stop the fire. She uses it to talk about the situation.
We can use it as the subject of a sentence to talk about a situation.

It is
fun going to the beach with you.
was a great holiday.
has been nice seeing you again.
isn't easy to talk to him.

Examples

1 Read the examples.
2 Listen to the examples.
3 Practise saying each example. Use the Pause button.
It is nice to relax on the weekend.
It was a Sunday when we arrived.
It has been a long hot summer.
It is late at night here. What time is it there?
It wasn't a very good trip. It was raining every day.
It's good to see you. It has been a long time!

 

Dave says:
Dave:
It took about ten minutes after the fire brigade came, for the fire to reach us.

Dave is talking about time. We can use it as the subject of a sentence + take to talk about time.

It takes
2 hours to get to Chiang Mai.
took five years to save enough money.
didn't take a long time to learn to drive.
Dave says:
Dave:
It looked like our house was next but at the last moment the wind changed direction.

Dave is giving his opinion of the situation. We can use it as the subject of a sentence + look, seem, feel, sound, to give our opinion of a situation, time or weather.

It looks
like it is going to rain.
felt good to be home again.
sounds fun.
seemed a good idea.

Examples

1 Read the examples.
2 Listen to the examples.
3 Practise saying each example. Use the Pause button.
It has taken 6 months to find a new apartment.
It looks like Fred is going to get the job.
It felt strange to be in a new class.
It seems to rain a lot here.
It sounded like a good idea at the time.

 

 

Now go to 06 WRITING The impersonal 'it'.

 

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