Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

There are two "it"s in this sentence, but they refer to different things. Is this considered good English? If not, what's a better way to express the same meaning?

share|improve this question
    
If the sentence is "It makes it easy to do it." it could refer to three distinct things. It's an English sentence, and it can be used. –  kiamlaluno Mar 17 '12 at 21:23
add comment

2 Answers

It is grammatically fine to have two identical pronouns referring to separate antecedents, but it's not necessarily the best way to write:

I had to clean up the carpet, so I looked in the closet and found a vacuum cleaner. It made it easier to do.

While it's understandable and grammatically valid, it's not the clearest way to say it. It would be better to replace one of the its (choose the one whose antecedent is furthest away, i.e. cleaning the carpet), with an appropriate noun or noun phrase:

I had to clean up the carpet, so I looked in the closet and found a vacuum cleaner. It made the job easier to do.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Yes, this is fine. The first it is a "dummy pronoun." It doesn't refer to anything and is there simply as a placeholder for the subject. The second it is, presumably, referential. No problems here.

share|improve this answer
1  
I'm not sure that the first it is a dummy. In it is raining, the it is certainly a dummy, because you're not referring to anything in particular. But when I read it makes it easier to do, I would automatically assume that there are two antecedents. –  Daniel Mar 17 '12 at 15:19
3  
I think both 'it's would have referents. What is easier to do? It is easier to do (some thing is easier). What makes it easier to do? It (some thing) makes it easier to do. In Daniel's example, the first 'it' is the vacuum cleaner, and the second 'it' is the cleaning of the carpet. –  Mitch Mar 17 '12 at 16:21
1  
In this string, either or both of the it's can be dummies, and either or both can be referential. It's just not clear without additional context, since it makes it easy to do is not a constituent but a chunk of one. Since it's been untimely ripp'd from its sentence, it's not clear what its structure is. However, whatever its actual structure might be, it's got lots of grammatical parses and so you shouldn't worry about multiple it's. Multiple pronouns, and articles, and quantifiers, and auxiliaries, ... is just the way English does syntax, is all. –  John Lawler Mar 17 '12 at 17:51
    
Yes, I can now see them being dummy or referential. –  Brett Reynolds Mar 17 '12 at 18:10
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.