Explanation – It/There + To be

It/There + To Be

What We Use “It” And “There” To Talk About

We use IT/THERE + TO BE to start sentences or parts of sentences that describe things that are or happen that are impossible to talk about as being about or being done by anything or anybody. We can think of these things as situations.

When To Use “It” And When To Use “There”

Look at these pairs (2’s) of sentences

It’s crowded here.
There are a lot of people.

It’s slippery out.
There’s ice all over the ground.

It’s hard to do 10 things at once.
There are too many things to think about.

What do you see in common between the first sentences in them? And between the second sentences? What’s difference between the two?

Look at them again, grouped this time by their beginnings and with key words underlined.

It’s crowded here.
It’s slippery out.
It’s hard to do 10 things at once.

There are a lot of people.
There’s ice all over the ground.
There are too many things to think about.

The key words in the first set of sentences are all adjectives. We use IT + TO BE to describe situations with adjectives – for sentences that say HOW situations are.

The key words in the second set of sentences are nouns. So we use THERE + TO BE to describe situations with noun – for sentences that say WHAT is in situations.

Details

IT + TO BE for things

What’s that on the chair over there?
— It’s my scarf.

We use IT + TO BE to talk about situations. But it isn’t the only thing we use it for. Here, we can see that we also use it to talk about things, which is different than using it to talk about situations.

DON’T confuse the two. The rules about whether we should use IT + TO BE or THERE + TO BE only apply when we use them to talk about situations. In our example, they don’t apply, which is why we can have a noun after TO BE without needing to start the sentence with THERE.

It’s a big party. — IT + TO BE for a thing
It’s interesting there. — IT + TO BE for a situation
There are a lot of people there. — THERE + TO BE for a situation

THERE + TO BE + ADJECTIVE + NOUN for situations

It’s crowded here.
There are lots of tall people.

What we want to focus on is the use of the word ‘tall’ in the second sentence. Lots of people see this and think ‘well, we’re talking about a situation and we have an adjective, so we need to use IT.’ The problem with thinking this is that the adjective is not being used to describe the situation, but to describe the noun that is being used to describe the situation. The situation is still being described with a noun and not an adjective. And it is what is being used to describe the situation (noun or adjective), and only this, that’s important.