A Japanese friend of mine recently asked me a question that I could not quite explain.

A. Who is your favorite singer? B. It is Ed Sheeran.

A. Who is the president of the United States? B. It's Joe Biden.

A. Who is your favorite actress? B. It's Anne Hathaway.

Of course there are a few ways to answer the question but I am having trouble explaining why one of those answers is "It" instead of "He/She."

Why in these situations do we use "It" in a question referring to a person? Why would you not say "She is~? Especially when "actress" refers to a woman?

Any insight into explaining this as simply as possible would be most welcome.

Thank you.


1 Answer 1


"It" in these answers is a placeholder pronoun that refers to the general concept that was asked about, not the person in the answer. Even though singer, president, and actress describe people, in this context we treat them as impersonal entities.

On the other hand, when the question asks about a specific person, we do use "he" or "she" in the response.

Q. Who is Joe Biden?
A. He's the President of the US.
Q. What's special about Ed Sheeran?
A. He's my favorite singer.

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