In Modern English, it is a singular, neuter, third-person personal pronoun.
In Modern English, it
has only three shapes representing five word forms:
Historically, though, the morphology is more complex.
had a single third-person pronoun – from the Proto-Germanic demonstrative
base * khi
-, from PIE * ko
– which had a plural and three genders in the singular. The modern pronoun it
developed out of the neuter, singular. The older pronoun had the following forms:
|+Old English, third-person pronoun|
! colspan="3" |Singular
In the 12th century, it
started to separate and appear without an h
. Around the same time, one case was lost, and distinct pronouns started to develop, so that by the 15th century and Middle English
, the forms of it
were as follows:
Nominative: ( h) it
Accusative: ( h) it / him
Reflexive:( h) it self. Also -selfe, -selve( n) , -silf, -sijlfe, sometimes without a space.
The hit form continued well into the 16th century but had disappeared before the 17th in formal written English.
Genitive its appeared in the later 16th century and had taken over by the middle of the 17th, by which time it had its modern form.
is considered to be neuter or impersonal / non-personal in gender. In Old English, ( h
was the neuter nominative and accusative form of hē
. But by the 17th century, the old gender system, which marked gender on common nouns and Adjective
, as well as pronouns, had disappeared, leaving only pronoun marking. At the same time, a new Relative clause
pronoun system was developing that eventually split between Animate gender
and impersonal relative which
As a result some scholars consider it
to belong to the impersonal gender, along with relative which
and interrogative what
can appear as a subject, object, determiner
or a predicative complement.
The reflexive form also appears as an adjunct. It
very seldom appears as a modifier.
Subject: It' s there; it being there; its being there; it allows for itself to be there.
Object: I saw it; I pointed her to it; It connects to itself.
Predicative complement: In our attempt to fight evil, we have become it; It took more than ten years it, to fully become itself.
Determiner: I touched its top.
Adjunct: It did it itself.
Modifier: They were the it crowd.
A dummy pronoun
is one that appears only for syntactic reasons and has no semantic value. One use of it
is as a dummy pronoun (see also there
) as in it's raining
or it's clear that you understand
In Old English, a subject was not required in the way it is today. As the subject requirement developed, there was a need for something to fill it with verbs taking zero arguments. Weather verbs such as rain or thunder were of this type, and, as the following example
shows, dummy it often took on this role.
Gif on sæternesdæg geðunrað, þaet tacnað demena and gerefena cwealm
If on saturn's-day thunders, that portends judges' and sheriffs' death
If it thunders on Saturday, that portends the deaths of judges and sheriffs
But these were not the only such verbs. Most of the verbs used without a subject or with the dummy it
belong to one of the following semantic groups:
(a) Events or happenings ( chance, happen, befall, etc.)
(b) Seeming or appearance ( seem, think, become, etc.)
(c) Sufficiency or lack ( lack, need, suffice, etc.)
(d) Mental processes or states ( like, list, grieve, please, repent, rue, etc.)
And examples still remain, such as the expression suffice it to say
We see the same use of dummy it in Cleft sentence, such as it's obvious that you were there.
Pronouns rarely take dependents, but it is possible for he
to have many of the same kind of dependents as other Noun phrase
Relative clause modifier: That's not the it that I meant; *That's not it that I meant.
Determiner: That's not the it that I meant; *That's not the it.
Adjective phrase modifier: the it crowd
Adverbial phrase external modifier: not even itself
are typically impersonal physical objects, but also include abstract concepts, situations, actions, characteristics, and almost any other concept or being, including, occasionally, humans, as in the following example from Lewis Carroll
The baby grunted again, and Alice looked very anxiously into its face to see what was the matter with it. It
is usually Definiteness
and specific, but it
can also have no referent at all (See Dummy it
Samuel Taylor Coleridge proposed using it in a wider sense in all the situations where a gender-neutral pronoun might be desired:
The children's author E. Nesbit consistently wrote in this manner, often of mixed groups of children: "Everyone got its legs kicked or its feet trodden on in the scramble to get out of the carriage."
[ Five Children and It, p. 1.] This usage (in all caps, as if an acronym) also occurs in District of Columbia police reports.
While some genderqueer people use it as a gender-neutral pronoun,
it is generally considered a Pejorative against transgender people and should not be used unless requested by a specific person.
According to the OED
, the following pronunciations are used:
Stephen King's book It is about a shape shifting, malevolent entity that often manifests as a clown.
In games of tag, the person trying to tag others is known as it.
English personal pronouns