Grammatical pattern: VERB + it + when + CLAUSE

example: I LIKE it when I have the house to myself.
    VERB it when CLAUSE

This pattern provides English speakers with a convenient way of expressing one’s feelings or observations concerning something that occurs repeatedly in the present, will occur in the future, or has occurred in the past. The example sentence above could be paraphrased as “I like the times in which I have the house to myself” or “I’m happy at those times when I have the house to myself.”  The word “it” in this pattern has only a grammatical function--as a direct object--and has no real meaning.  Because it takes the place of the direct object, the “it” allows the clause introduced by “when” to function adverbially, which feels grammatically “comfortable” to English speakers.  Note that the when-CLAUSE can be moved to the beginning of the sentence just like any other adverbial clause: “When I have the house to myself, I like it.”

It is also possible to omit the word “it” and thus allow the when-CLAUSE to function like a noun and as the direct object in the sentence (for example, “I like when it’s sunny,” “I hate when you talk like that”).  For the words “like,” “love,” “hate,” and  “dislike,” the pattern without “it” is relatively common. The other verbs in the list below follow the pattern with “it” more strictly.

Additionally, if the action being liked, loved, disliked, etc. is occurring just at the time of speaking or for a limited time in the present, the construction that uses a gerund (e.g., “I like having the house to myself”) is the form that would more likely be used rather than this pattern.  Alternatively, a different type of construction entirely might be used, for example, with an adjective: “It’s nice to have the house to myself.”


List of verbs that follow the pattern  [VERB + it + when + CLAUSE]

abominate, adore, appreciate, bear, detest, dislike, enjoy, hate, like, love, mean, know, see, sense, stand, tolerate


Additional examples of the pattern  [VERB + it + when + CLAUSE]

I prefer it when people call me by my first name.

She appreciates it when they call before they come over.

I hate it when he goes off without saying goodbye.

He can’t bear it when his wife is ill.

I always sense it when he’s in a bad mood.

She didn’t mean it when she said she was going to quit.

I loved it when he made a joke about her hat.

He’ll love it when the vegetables begin to grow.




All grammatical patterns