Sentence 019 Let the cat out of the bag.
019 It has rained a lot this season.
019 It was flooding five villages before midnight.
019 There has been a lot of rain this season.
Leslie: Can you find the Empty Subject(s)? Well, before you answer this question, which is the worst Sentence?
Martin: I would choose ’There has been a lot of rain this season.’ It is a correct Sentence, so if I have to find the Empty Subject, this is the worst because the Subject is not empty at all.
L: Go on.
M: In this Sentence, the Subject is ’a lot of rain’, and the Dummy Subject is ’There’. If we use the Dummy Subject, we can throw the Real Subject behind the Verb without wanting to raise a question. In this way, the Verb is more stressed.
L: I agree with you here.
M: Let me add that the Dummy Subject and its Extension, the Real Subject make up the Full Subject, and it is not empty at all.
L: It seems that you have learned your lesson well. What else is there?
M: If you ask me about a Sentence with an Empty Subject, I think that there are two, and they are empty for two different reasons.
L: Let’s see them one by one.
M: Let’s see ’It was flooding five villages before midnight.’ first.
L: What’s wrong with this? Why is the Subject of this Sentence Empty?
M: Simply because it is the first or only Sentence, and the Subject Pronoun ’It’ has no Antecedent.
L: You are right: the meaning of the Subject Pronoun is inherited from the Antecedent. If there is no Antecedent, there is no meaning.
M: The Subject of this Sentence is not structurally Empty; it is made empty by vague wording.
L: OK. What about the last Sentence? Why is the Subject Empty there?
M: In ’It has rained a lot this season.’, the Subject is Empty because the Verb has gobbled up all the meaning and the Subject Pronoun is left totally Empty. Am I right here?
L: I couldn’t agree more. Let’s test your idea above. Could you turn this Positive [Affirmative] Sentence into a General Question?
M: Sure. ’Has it rained a lot this season?’
L: Correct. As a next logical step, could you make a Subject Question out of it?
M: I’ll try. ’What has rained a lot this season?’ Formally, this is the Subject Question but it doesn’t make much sense. The Subject is really Empty. You cannot even make a Subject Question about it.
L: Can you ask about the Verb? It is full of information, as you have just said.
M: Again, formally, it is ’What has it done a lot this season?’ and it doesn’t make much sense, either.
L: No wonder why. All the information for the Subject + Verb is accumulated in the Verb, and now we empty the Verb by asking a question about is. The whole Sentence is left without a meaning.