Misc.: Antecedents for ‘it’

November 1, 2007: Issue 211

In general, every pronoun needs an antecedent. (Refresher: An antecedent is the noun to which a pronoun refers. In the sentence “Britney promised she’d shape up,” Britney is the antecedent for the pronoun she.)

In some colloquial expressions, the pronoun it can go without an antecedent.

acceptable: It’s easy to imagine this house on a Greek isle.
acceptable: It pays to do scheduled maintenance.

In many cases, though, you can tighten and clarify a sentence by ditching that dangling it.

acceptable: It might take you years to save for an addition.
preferred: You might need years to save for an addition.

acceptable: If it’s in the budget, have cabinets built to fit the corner.
preferred: If budget allows, have cabinets built to fit the corner.

Whatever you do, avoid using it twice in a sentence with different antecedents.

please, please don’t: It’s so much easier to do it this way.
preferred: This way is so much easier.

Thumbs up: Last week we asked for your favorite grammar-related movie lines. We especially liked this submission from Michelle Abraham, an exchange from Never Been Kissed.

David Arquette, as Robert Geller: “What’s the matter? You look nauseous.”
Drew Barrymore, as his copy editor sister, Josie: “Nauseated. I look nauseated.”

Stop by the CE department to claim your prize, Michelle. By the way, you know what we really love about that movie? The 25-year-old copy editor has her own office. With a window. And her own assistant. And an entire day to edit one story—with a pencil.

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