Practically all books on English grammar teach the construction "It takes [an amount of time, effort, etc] for somebody to do something" as in:

It took three months to finish the paper.

Now I sometimes see the same structure used with other similar verbs but am not quite sure if they are considered acceptable in Standard English. Would you say both the sentences below are natural?

It would not have required much effort for her to produce a simple invention like that.

It needed a lot of courage for me to talk to the girl.

closed as off-topic by Drew, Edwin Ashworth, user140086, BladorthinTheGrey, Mitch Dec 3 '16 at 18:41

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

  • "Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified." – Drew, Mitch
  • "Please include the research you've done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic." – Edwin Ashworth, Community, BladorthinTheGrey
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.


I find both those sentences completely natural.

  • Please does anyone remember anything about a post of mine on this question? The topic seems familiar but I certainly remember posting on it… and yet there's a downvote in my history. – Robbie Goodwin Dec 17 '16 at 23:31

Time, or a measure of duration, may be used in this construction with take, require, and need, followed by an infinitive describing what takes place during the duration.

(English has few exclusively time words like during, duration, endure,
  when, then,
and now, so almost all reference to time is done metaphorically.).

The it is not part of the construction you're asking about, though, since that's part of the construction created by Extraposition; if the sentence you're asking about is something like

  • It takes/requires/needs X time for somebody to do something.

then the un-Extraposed transform of the sentence would be something like

  • For somebody to do something takes/requires/needs X time.

The whole clause For somebody to do something is a noun phrase, used as the subject of takes, requires, or needs. That's a heavy subject, and English likes to extrapose heavy subjects; they feel better at the end of a sentence.

All of this is a part of the Time Is Money metaphor theme, in which English treats perceived duration as if it were an actual thing that could be spent, lost, or needed by humans, just like money.

  • 1
    Never thought of it that way but now that you mention it, all the languages I am familiar with seem to have similar metaphorical ways of referring time as if it were some sort of money-like object that could be spent or wasted. Very interesting. – Barouche Dec 2 '16 at 16:58

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