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Hi there,

I read an explanation on IT in Michael Swan's Practical English Usage. But I don't understand his explanation. Below is his:

Clause subjects

We also normally use preparatory it when the subject of a clause is itself another clause.

It’s probable that we’ll be a little late.

It does not interest me what you think.

It is surprising how many unhappy marriages there are.

It is exciting when a baby starts talking.

It is essential that she should be told immediately.

I still don't understand the meaning and function 'it' in these examples. What do those 'it' refer to in the examples. Take example 1 and 2 as examples, can I change them as follows?

That we'll be a little late is probable.

What you think does not interest me.

If yes, how about the following ones:

It seems that he forgot to buy the tickets.

It is said that only three people in the world can understand his theory.

I can't say: That he forgot to buy the tickets seems

AND That only three people in the world can understand his theory is said.

Simon
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Comments  
That he forgot to buy the tickets seems.


AND


That only three people in the world can understand his theory is said.


Bad English, can't say that.


Listen to the phrases in Swan (and other good sources) as listening to music and learn the allowed patterns of the English language.
Hello Ruttonjee

The first thing to look at is the role of a preparatory (or "anticipatory") "it".

Take this sentence:

1. That we’ll be a little late is probable.

The underlined portion is the subject of "is". However, because the subject is so long, and comes first, it's difficult to remember.

So the material needs to be redistributed, for ease of understanding. The short clause is therefore put first, and the important information, which you want your interlocutor to remember, is placed at the end:

2. ?Is probable that we’ll be a little late.

However, in English, a verb (usually) needs a specific subject. In #2, we have no subject, which is why I've marked it with a ?.

Therefore "It" is used. In effect, "It" fills the vacancy left by the underlined part of #1, when we moved it to the end of the sentence; it anticipates the true subject, in other words:

3. It's probable that we’ll be a little late.

Let me know if it's clear so far, and we'll then go back to your other questions.

All the best,

MrP
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Hi there,

What does mean by 'it' in the following sentences:

It seems that he forgot to buy the tickets.

It is said that only three people in the world can understand his theory.

Simon
What does mean by 'it' in the following sentences:

It
seems that he forgot to buy the tickets.
The situation seems to be that that he forgot to buy the tickets.
We think that it's possible/plausible that that he forgot to buy the tickets.
The appearances show
that that he forgot to buy the tickets.
Apparently,
he forgot to buy the tickets.

It is said that only three people in the world can understand his theory.
People say that only three people in the world can understand his theory.
(The) Rumours are that only three people in the world can understand his theory.
Hi there,

Thanks a lot. But I still don't understand the second example: It is said that...

Why do we simply say that people say that blah blah instead of using IT?

Simon
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RuttonjeeIf yes, how about the following ones:

It seems that he forgot to buy the tickets.

It is said that only three people in the world can understand his theory.

I can't say: That he forgot to buy the tickets seems

AND That only three people in the world can understand his theory is said.

Right, but you can change them like this:

It seems that he forgot to buy the tickets. = He seems to have forgotten to buy the tickets.

It is said that only three people in the world can understand his theory. = Only three people in the world are said to be able to understand his theory.

RuttonjeeWhy do we simply say that people say that blah blah instead of using IT?
You can express the idea any way you like, but people tend to simplify their speech in most cases. To say "It's said..." is shorter than "People say... ", so that's why the first one is more common, I guess.
Ruttonjee Why do we simply say that people say that blah blah instead of using IT?

It leads to an impersonal expression (It is said), the subject is abstract (It).
People leads to a a more personal expression (People say), the subject is more concrete, even alive in this case.

Matters of preference. You must be familiar with both. You probably have in your own language personal and impersonal ways of expressing things.
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