When I'm editing someone's work, if they write:

"It is difficult finding jobs in today's world."

I always change it to:

"Finding jobs in today's world is difficult."

I never like the way the first sentence sounds. What is it called when someone structures a sentence like that? What are its parts? The opening "It is difficult finding" sounds weak to me, but how is this sentence diagrammed?


It is perfectly standard English to begin a sentence with it. Oxford Dictionaries says it can be "used in the normal subject or object position when a more specific subject or object is given later in the sentence".

See www.grammarunderground.com/can-you-start-a-sentence-with-it-of-course-do-you-want-to-maybe-not.html

  • Thank you. I definitely agree that it is standard English and grammatically correct. I just always think it sounds, at least in professional writing, weak or passive. I think your link helps me understand what's happening to the pieces ("it" becoming the main subject and "is" becoming the main verb). That's mainly what I'm trying to glean. Thanks! – Sirgalt Apr 13 '20 at 12:33

LG Alexander, in Longman English Grammar, gives examples of such sentences using 'preparatory it':

4.13'It'as a'preparatory subject'

Sometimes sentences beginning with 'it' continue [not immediately: see analysis with the (B) examples] with an infinitive, an [ing-form], or a noun clause. It is possible to begin such sentences with an infinitive or ing-form, ['that' or a wh-word,] but we generally prefer 'it':

A1. It's pleasant to lie in the sun (To lie in the sun is pleasant)

A2. It's pleasant lying in the sun (Lying in the sun is pleasant)

A3. It's a shame that Tom isn't here (That Tom isn't here is a shame)

A4. It doesn't matter when we arrive (When we arrive doesn't matter)

The true subject in the above sentences with 'it' is the infinitive, ing-form or noun clause and 'it' is preparatory to the subject.

'It' as a preparatory subject often combines with:

B1. adjectives: eg difficult, easy, important, vital: It's not easy making ends meet.

B2. nouns: eg fun, a pity, a pleasure, a shame: It's a great help having you here.

B3. verbs: eg appear, happen, look, seem: Did he mention signing those forms?


[modified to reformat, change (B1, B2, B3) examples to more relevant ones with ing-forms rather than to-infinitives, and replace ill-defined term 'gerund']

So example A2 and examples B1 licence "It is difficult finding jobs in today's world."


However, Alexander speaks to grammaticality, not idiomaticity. I'd venture to add two points on this.

Firstly, the it-fronted variant of a sentence such as "It is / It's difficult finding jobs in today's world" is more colloquial, less formal than the 'standard' variant "Finding jobs in today's world is difficult." By the same token, it might well convey more feeling and seem less stuffy in conversation.

Secondly, some examples would sound very awkward if it-fronted. "It's punishable by a maximum custodial sentence of several months, taking without the owner's consent." *"It's important obeying rules." "It's important, obeying rules." But this involves judgement calls in less contrived examples. Note also that a comma may seem advisable or even essential in some cases.

  • Excellent. Thanks for the additional explanation. Exactly what I'm looking for. – Sirgalt Apr 13 '20 at 15:11

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