Beginning sentences with pronouns

by Sharon L. Lakey
(Columbus, Ohio)

I currently tutor ESL students, and a question regarding using pronouns, specifically 'it' to begin sentences has me stumped.

In the sentence, "It is not good to sing when you don't feel well," I
told my students the word "good" modifies "it." But what, they ask, is
"it?" How to answer this question, or should perhaps the sentence be
thrown out altogether as poorly written?

Comments for Beginning sentences with pronouns

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Apr 06, 2018
Starting a sentence with it
by: Audrey

It is just fine to start a sentence with it. I just did.

In general, a pronoun needs to refer back to an antecedent, although I am currently reading a book that won the Man Booker Prize where the pronoun he is often (maybe even usually) is ambiguous. And I know I'm not alone in noticing the problem because a man who saw me reading it in a coffee shop asked me what I thought about it, he and his companions knew exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned that problem. I still haven't decided whether in that case I was dealing with a sloppy writer or one who was using grammar to muddy the waters in a book about the muddy political situation in Tudor England.

But I digress. The word it is a special pronoun. According to Merriam-Webster's, it is "used as subject of an impersonal verb that expresses a condition or action without reference to an agent: 'it is raining.'"

I hope this helps.

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