Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English


English definition of “it”


pronoun (TIME/WEATHER)    /ɪt/
A2 used to talk about the time , date , weather , or distances : What time is it? It was October , so it was quite cold . It rained all day . It's ten miles to Leeds. Grammar:ItWe commonly use the pronoun it as both a subject and an object pronoun:Grammar:It as an ‘empty’ or ‘dummy’ subject and objectWe can use it as an ‘empty’ subject or as an ‘empty’ object. It is ‘empty’ because it doesn’t refer to anything in particular:Grammar:Anticipatory itWe also use it to introduce or ‘anticipate’ the subject or object of a sentence, especially when the subject or object of the sentence is a clause. Most commonly, such clauses are to + infinitive and that clauses. We also call this use of it a ‘dummy’ subject, since the real subject is another part of the sentence (real subject underlined):Grammar:I find it amazing thatWith verbs such as find or consider, it + adjective + that clause or it + adjective + to infinitive, are commonly used to anticipate an object:Grammar:It and cleft sentences (It was my friend who …)We use it in cleft sentences. It emphasises the subject or object of the main clause:Grammar:It with the passive voiceIt is common with the passive voice. It makes the sentence seem less personal and more objective:Grammar:It’s or its?It’s is the contracted form of it is or it has:Grammar:Pronouns: personal (I, me, you, him, it, they, etc.)We use personal pronouns in place of noun phrases. We often use them to refer back to people and things that we have already identified (underlined):Grammar:Subject and object pronounsPersonal subject pronouns act as the subject of a clause. We use them before a verb to show who is doing the verb. We do not usually leave out the pronoun:Grammar:I, meWe use I and me to refer to the speaker or writer. I is the subject form and me is the object form:Grammar:YouWe use you to refer to the listener or reader. It is both the subject and the object form. You can refer to one person or more than one person. It is usually clear from the context whether you is singular or plural:Grammar:He, him; she, herHe, him, she and her are singular third person pronouns. He and him are the masculine forms. She and her are the feminine forms:Grammar:ItWe use it to refer to things:Grammar:We, usWe use we and us to refer to different groups of people, but always including the speaker. We and us can refer to the speaker + the listener, or the speaker + other people but not the listener, or people in general including the speaker:Grammar:They, themWe use they and them to refer to specific groups of people, things and animals:
(Definition of it pronoun (TIME/WEATHER) from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
Focus on the pronunciation of it

Definitions of “it” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day


relating to behaviour between people that is pleasant and friendly, often despite a difficult situation

Word of the Day


Read our blog about how the English language behaves.

Learn More

New Words

Find words and meanings that have just started to be used in English, and let us know what you think of them.

Learn More