What is vs What is it

Boccherini

Senior Member
Italiano
Hello

I have problems understanding the use of the pronoun "it" in these contexts.

1 - What was it possible for us to hear?
Stockhausen's electric dreams
2 - What is possible to know before you commit yourself to begin your career in a specific location?
https://brainly.com/question/6702990
3 - What is it possible to know?
What is it possible to know?

In n.1 we already have the subject, the interrogative pronoun "what". I would omit "it".
In n.2 we have a similar construction without "it".
In n.3 similarly to n.1 I would omit "it".

Could you please clarify this?
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I would have added "it" to the second sentence. All three sentences are more idiomatic with "it" than they would be without it.
     

    Boccherini

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    What is not the subject of was in sentence 1. It is the direct object of hear.

    I am not sure, but I would interpret this sentence to be formed of two clauses, each one with its own subject.

    What was it possible / for us to hear?

    "What" and "us" being respectively the subject of the first and the second clause
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If you reverse the order (which we wouldn't normally do, but which we could do if we wanted), you get "It was possible [for us] to hear what?" "It" is a dummy subject, and "what" is the object. The words "for us" are not essential to forming the sentence and can be omitted; they only add information of secondary importance.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    The infinitive "clause" is subordinate to, i.e. part of, the "was" clause. In particular, the infinitive phrase complements "possible".

    Think of "was it possible for us to hear" as "could we hear".
     

    Boccherini

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    The infinitive "clause" is subordinate to, i.e. part of, the "was" clause. In particular, the infinitive phrase complements "possible".

    Think of "was it possible for us to hear" as "could we hear".
    If you reverse the order (which we wouldn't normally do, but which we could do if we wanted), you get "It was possible [for us] to hear what?" "It" is a dummy subject, and "what" is the object. The words "for us" are not essential to forming the sentence and can be omitted; they only add information of secondary importance.

    Thank you The Newt and Forero

    Not being "what" the subject now I understand why we need "it".
     
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