* “A Was an Apple Pie” rhyme was an extremely popular method of teaching the alphabet to young children in the 19th and 20th centuries, when it appeared in many nursery rhyme books, including “The Big Book of Nursery Rhymes” circa 1920. However it dates back as least as far the reign of Charles II…” (All Nursery Rhymes)
From The Sixth Heaven (1946), by L.P. Hartley:
“I suppose it all began with Miss Fothergill,” he said at length.
“‘It’ began?” asked Stephen.
“What began, my dear Eustace? You must be more definite…”…
… “You see, it”- Stephen frowned, but Eustace did not notice- “it was like this, and this is where my sister Hilda comes in.”…
… “…You see, I had been led to believe it was much more.”
“You’re getting into the ‘it’ country again,” said Stephen,
“May I say, in vulgar parlance, come off it?…
… “I don’t really forget her,” said Eustace, rather ruefully; it simply is that I’ve been so much with Hilda.”
“It simply is–it simply is,” echoed Stephen. “What a lot of responsibility you give to that poor ‘it’…”…
… “…In a minute or two I’m going to tell you the story of my life. I’ve arranged it (I think ‘it’ there is the mot juste) in six sections…”
From: Eustace and Hilda (1947), by L.P. Hartley:
“…I asked her if she had written to you and she said no, you were enjoying yourself, and she didn’t want you to be worried; there was nothing you could do to help. Afterwards she seemed to change her mind and said, if you write, tell him it isn’t his fault, it might have happened anyway. I didn’t ask her what the ‘it’ referred to, or why you might feel yourself to blame; I imagine she was trying to spare your guilt-complex…”
“…Why of course? You seem to use words very loosely. Do you know you’ve begun every sentence with “well” so far? When I was at the Lycée des Beaux-Arts at Lausanne they used to say “What’s the good of a well without any water?”‘…”
A dummy pronoun is used when a particular verb argument (or preposition) is nonexistent (it could also be unknown, irrelevant, already understood, or otherwise “not to be spoken of directly”) but when a reference to the argument (a pronoun) is nevertheless syntactically required. For example, in the phrase “It is obvious that the violence will continue”, it is a dummy pronoun, not referring to any agent. Unlike a regular pronoun of English, it cannot be replaced by any noun phrase.
The term dummy pronoun refers to the function of a word in a particular sentence, not a property of individual words. For example, it in the example from the previous paragraph is a dummy pronoun, but it in the sentence “I bought a sandwich and ate it” is a referential pronoun (referring to the sandwich).
In the phrase “it is raining—”, the verb to rain is usually considered semantically impersonal, even though it appears as syntactically intransitive; in this view, the required it is to be considered a dummy word.
However, there have been a few objections to this interpretation. Noam Chomsky has argued that the it employed as the subjectof English weather verbs can control the subject of an adjunct clause, just like a “normal” subject. For example, compare:She brushes her teeth before having a bath.→ She brushes her teeth before she has a bath. It sometimes rains after snowing.→ It sometimes rains after it snows.
If this analysis is accepted, then the “weather it” is to be considered a “quasi-(verb) argument” and not a dummy word.
Some linguists such as D. L. Bolinger go even further, claiming that the “weather it” simply refers to a general state of affairs in the context of the utterance. In this case, it would not be a dummy word at all. Possible evidence for this claim includes exchanges such as:“Was it nice (out) yesterday?””No, it rained.” where it is implied to mean “the local weather”.
Other examples of semantically empty it are found with raising verbs in “unraised” counterparts. For example:It seems that John loves coffee. (Corresponding “raised” sentence: John seems to love coffee.)
Dummy it can also be found in extraposition constructions in English, such as the following:It was known to all the class[that the boy failed his test].
In English, dummy object pronouns tend to serve an ad hoc function, applying with less regularity than dummy subjects. Dummy objects are sometimes used to transform transitive verbs to a transitive light verb form: e.g., do → do it, “to engage in sexual intercourse“; make → make it, “to achieve success”; get → get it, “to comprehend”. Prepositional objects are similar: e.g., with it, “up to date”; out of it, “dazed” or “not thinking”. All of these phrases, of course, can also be taken literally. For instance:He ordered a cheeseburger, and even though it took them a while to make it, he did get some French frieswith it.
It has been proposed that elements like expletive there in existential sentences and pro–forms in inverse copularsentences play the role of dummy predicate rather than dummy subject, so that the postverbal noun phrase would rather be the embedded subject of the sentence.”