John remembers that it took quite a lot of courage to sing in public for the first time.
This question isn't about the relationship between take and courage. There's no special idiom or collocation involving these two words. What we have is a type of construction:
The meaning is something along the lines of It required X to achieve Y. This is the same construction we use for explaining how much time something took:
- It took two hours to get to work this morning!
The construction is quite interesting, in that the semantic subject has been replaced by "it" and pushed to the end of the sentence. Consider this sentence:
- To sing in public for the first time took quite a lot of courage.
This sentence is a tiny bit stilted in English. It's perfectly grammatical though. Here we have a Verb Phrase To sing in public for the first time which is functioning as Subject. Took, of course is the Predicator, or verb, and quite a lot of courage, a Noun Phrase, is functioning as Direct Object.
In English we aren't very keen on having infinitive constructions as Subjects, especially very long infinitive constructions. So what we can do to fix this, is insert a dummy subject it, and move the infinitive to the end of the sentence:
- It took quite a lot of courage to sing in public for the first time.
Here are some more example sentences:
- It took 18,000 bricks to build this house.
- It took five firemen to rescue the kitten.
- It took a bottle of Bolinger and a three course meal in a fancy restaurant to seal the deal.
- It took me half an hour to write this post!