Jan. 2, 2019

Sentence 002 Let the cat out of the bag

Leslie: Which of the three sentences is the worst?

Nora: ’Snow snows a lot this winter.’

L: I half-agree. It only looks or sounds the worst, but there is an even worse sentence among them.

N: Then, ’There snows a lot this winter.’

L: I fully agree with this. What is wrong with this sentence?

N: It is strange. Something is missing.

L: What is missing?

N: I don’t know.

L: OK. What is the Subject of the sentence?

N: There.

L: And what is the meaning?

N: Nothing. It has no meaning. The Subject is quite often ’There’.

L: You are right. That’s what we call Dummy Subject but only when there is a Real Subject coming later, beyond the Verb. There is no Real Subject here.

N: Then the problem is that there is no Subject in the sentence.

L: That’s right. There is no Subject. If there is no Subject, there is no Sentence. What is ’a lot’?

N: Is it the Object?

L: Good guess but it can’t be. The Verb ’snows’ is an Intransitive Verb. It means that it cannot have an Object with this meaning; ’a lot ’ is an Adverb of Degree. Meaning how much.

N: Then why is ’Snow snows a lot this winter’ not the worst sentence?

L: Because it is basically correct; ’Snow’ is unnecessary as the Subject because the meaning of the Verb includes the meaning of the Subject. Putting ’Snow’ as the Subject of the Sentence would mean redundancy, unnecessary bits of information; it is like ’horse animal’ or ’apple fruit’.

N: We use this ’It’ quite often in Subject position.

L: You are right. We call it Empty Subject because the meaning is all in the Verb. We use it quite often when we want to talk about Time, Temperature, Weather, etc.

All in all, the correct sentence is ’It snows a lot this winter’ and now we know why.