I have two things to say. I lost my car keys after school. But it isn’t all bad news (all of it isn’t bad news). I got an A on my math test.

What does “it” refer to in the second sentence?

I thought “it” could refer to “two things” but “it” is singular so it seems like that wouldn’t make sense. I also thought that “it” might just be a dummy it, but “all” refers to it so it doesn’t seem like that’s possible either. Can someone please explain?

  • "All of it isn't bad news" sounds grammatically incorrect to me in this context. What's the source of this quote?
    – alphabet
    Apr 27, 2023 at 23:16
  • I would say that the antecedent of it is news, that the sentence is essentially, “Not all the news is bad news.” Apr 27, 2023 at 23:16
  • Like alphabet, I wonder about the text in parenetheses (whether it was in the original quotation or you've inserted it). Please either cite the source of the quotation or indicate that you're the author; doing so reduces the need for us to ask for clarification (among other benefits). Apr 28, 2023 at 0:51

1 Answer 1


"it" doesn't have a specific antecedent here. From OED it's definition 3d

  1. As the non-referential subject of a verb or impersonal statement, expressing action or a condition of things simply, without reference to any agent.
    d. In statements about condition, welfare, affairs, circumstances, etc.

So it's just referring to the speaker's general situation, it's not all bad.

You could also consider that there's an implied set of "news" that the speaker is relating (the two things they want to say). In this case, "it" refers to that, so the statement is equivalent to

But the news isn't all bad -- I got an A on my math test.

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