Dummy It for Infinitives Used as Subjects

Dummy It for Infinitives Used as Subjects

We have seen many examples of infinitives used as subjects. Often, how­ever, we prefer to move longer infinitive phrases to the end of the sentence, putting an it in the subject position to act as a placeholder or marker. This use of it is called a "dummy" or "empty" it because the it does not actually refer to anything. For example, consider the following sentence, which has an infinitive phrase in the subject position:

To accept such a generous offer made good economic sense.

We could shift the infinitive phrase to the end of the sentence and put a dummy it in the position vacated by the infinitive phrase:

It made good economic sense to accept such a generous offer.

Here are some examples of subject infinitive phrases shifted to the end of the sentence and replaced by dummy it:

Original: For Smith to turn down thejob was a big surprise.

Shifted: It was a big surprise for Smith to turn down thejob.

Original: For Jones to return thefavor meant a lot to us.

Shifted: It meant a lot to us for Jones to return thefavor.

We normally shift infinitive subjects when the sentence contains a predicate adjective. (Predicate adjectives are adjectives that follow link­ing verbs—see Chapter 11.) Here are examples:

Original: To complete the survey seemed important.

Shifted: It seemed important to complete the survey.

Original: To drive on the wrong side ofthe road was very strange. Shifted: It was very strange to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Original: For Ralph to miss work like that was totally out of character.

Shifted: It was totally out of character for Ralph to miss work like that.

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