Por Nick Potter

nick potter bookIn  this series we look at real-life examples of the most common mistakes in English by native Spanish lawyers. These and lots more invaluable tips are available in a new e-book/paperback, here: 50 English Tips for Spanish Professionals.

it

The subject in this post is… the subject. Are you forgetting it?

It’s sunny, it rains, it’s warm, it’s cold, it’s sunny again. A lot can happen in fifteen minutes in the UK. But when we say it is raining, what is raining? Why, “it”, of course!

Question: Which ONE of A – G below is correct?

A For us is not clear which category they may be related to
B I would say that for the Madrid office would be really useful if I could access reports that contain specific information
C In particular, the Company has not waived any right or benefit regarding the Loan Portfolio, nor has agreed to any guarantee release in relation to such agreements as from the Cut-Off Date
D If the Spanish regulator has not issued this certificate within this period, will be deemed granted
E The terms of the agreements range from one to two years, it being possible to extend the term in one (1) case provided both parties agree
F I would appreciate if you could give me the name of somebody at your respective offices with experience in this area
G However, as it will be explained below, there are certain exceptions

 Before you read the answer, remember:

An English idiom that is often used, particularly by Nottingham Forest fans, is “it never rains, but it pours”. This means when that things go wrong, everything goes wrong.

The word “it” here doesn’t really mean anything. It is there for grammatical reasons because the sentence needs a subject. In a sentence like “The bank is closed”, the subject is the bank. In “They failed to show up”, the subject is they.

Using subjects and verbs is rarely a problem for Spanish speakers – they don’t usually forget the personal pronouns I, you, he/she, we and they.

However, the impersonal pronoun “it” is often forgotten.

“It” is used as the pronoun when the subject is a thing, something impersonal like a company, a country or a garden gnome.

“It” is also used with impersonal verbs. In a sentence like “it is raining”, the verb to be is impersonal and does not refer to a particular subject

In Spanish, no equivalent of “it” is used with impersonal verbs, which stand alone using a third-person singular conjugation. Examples of impersonal verb usage are llueve (it rains), parece complicado (it looks difficult) and the es in es muy urgente (tomorrow is fine).

“It” also means lo, as in “Yo lo hago” (“I’ll do it” – note the “I will” contraction and different word order).

So:

A and B are examples where an impersonal verb is used but the subject – “it”–  is missing.

A For us it is [it is = es] not clear which category they may be related to
B I would say that for the Madrid office it would be [it would be = sería] really useful if I could access reports that contain specific information

 

The subject is missing in C and D too. Because the subject is a thing, and not a he or she, “it” is used.

C In particular, the Company has not waived any right or benefit regarding the Loan Portfolio, nor has it [it = the company] agreed to any guarantee release in relation to such agreements as from the Cut-Off Date
D If the Spanish regulator has not issued this certificate within this period, it will [it = the certificate] be deemed granted

 

E is the correct answer. Again, the verb to be is impersonal here.

E The terms of the agreements range from one to two years, it being possible to extend the term in one (1) case provided both parties agree [CORRECT]

 

In F, what would be “lo” in Spanish is “it” in English.

F I would appreciate it [te lo apreciaría]  if you could give me the name of somebody at your respective offices with experience in this area

 

Why is G wrong? Here, “will” is the auxiliary verb, not the main verb (“explained”). The grammar is a little complicated (i.e. dull) and to do with subject-auxiliary inversion. The subject, if you like, is the following clause. So no “it” is used.

G However, as it will be explained below, there are certain exceptions

 

Note:

No it after as. We mentioned “will” as an auxiliary verb. These are “helping” verbs used in forming the tenses, moods, and voices of other verbs. The primary auxiliary verbs in English are be, do, and have; the modal auxiliaries are can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, and would.

These are often used after the word “as” and without an  “it”. Here are some common examples it would be a good idea to remember:

  • As discussed…
  • As will be shown…
  • As can be seen (in the table above)…

 

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