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Empty Pronoun

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Normally, pronouns are used after we have mentioned something. Pronouns stand in for the nouns, compound nouns, and proper nouns in a sentence, so that we don’t have to repeat ourselves. Generally, pronouns need something to refer back to. The pronoun, it, however, is a different kettle of fish. The pronoun, it, can be used for what is sometimes called the empty pronoun, or the dummy subject, because it does not to stand for anything in particular. Other terms for this type of use of the pronoun it are the expletive pronoun or the pleonastic pronoun, if you want to get technical. The reason we have this empty pronoun is that all English sentences must have a subject and a verb.

Ellipsis or near ellipsis is a feature of English pronunciation that we see with many pronouns at the beginning of sentences, and particularly when we use the empty pronoun. Ellipsis is when the empty pronoun disappears completely, while near-ellipsis is when we are left with a little of the empty pronoun. Of course, we don’t have to leave out any of the sounds and can say the sentence in its entirety. We will still be understood, but it may not sound quite as natural as a native speaker. By learning about ellipsis and near ellipsis, you will also be priming your ear to better hear what native English speakers are saying. We will do some exercises to see if you can hear and identify this speech feature when listening to normal, fast-spoken English speech.

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