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What does “it” refer to in “it's raining”?
Whence the “it” in “I like it here”?

What is the grammatical term for the 'it' in forms such as "It is raining" or "It won't matter", and is there a difference between the usage in those two examples?

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marked as duplicate by Matt Эллен, Alain Pannetier Φ, Cerberus, RegDwigнt Jul 11 '12 at 8:56

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"It's the same the whole world over", to quote the song lyric, but is it? –  user23380 Jul 11 '12 at 6:30
    
Thanks to everyone. I do know that it is a third-person, neuter pronoun. It's the difference between the 'it's in "It is a black dog" and "It is hot in here" that I am querying. It's oddly difficult to phrase questions about 'it', isn't it. –  user23380 Jul 11 '12 at 6:54

3 Answers 3

It's usually called dummy 'it' or empty 'it'. More accurately, it is a dummy subject. It has no meaning, but provides a subject for a clause that otherwise wouldn't have one.

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Thanks. It seems to occur in other languages as well; German is the only one I can comment on with any depth of knowledge at all. 'It' would seem straightforward ... until one starts thinking about 'it'. –  user23380 Jul 11 '12 at 7:02
    
French has 'il pleut'. –  Barrie England Jul 11 '12 at 7:16

It is a third-person, neuter pronoun. I had always assumed it was a definite article, so this was kind of neat to learn as a bit of nerd-trivia.

As for the first example, 'it' is associated with 'is,' so it functions as part of a to-be verb.

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It is a pronoun and acts as a subject in your examples. There is no difference between the two that I can think of.

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You could also call it subject pronouns. –  Noah Jul 11 '12 at 6:38

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