Grammatical pattern: it + VERB + INFINITIVE

example: It PAYS to consider all your options.
It HELPS to give yourself a break every now and then.

This pattern beginning with the grammatical subject “it” allows speakers of English to substitute this very compact element “it” for an infinitive phrase that is the actual, meaningful subject in the sentence.  In other words, the “real” subject of the verb “helps” in the sentence above is “to give yourself a break every now and then.” The whole sentence with the infinitive phrase in the subject position would be:  “To give yourself a break every now and then helps.”  This type of sentence beginning with an infinitive phrase as the subject can seem a little formal.  It can also seem unbalanced, with the initial part of the sentence, the subject, seeming too long for the verb part of the sentence. Using the word “it” as a grammatical placeholder allows speakers to put the infinitive phrase in a position in the sentence that feels more appropriate when it is quite long relative to the verb phrase.

Only a few verbs follow the pattern being discussed here.  These verbs are intransitive verbs.  A similar pattern with transitive verbs is used by a larger number of verbs (e.g., “It annoyed him to listen to all their complaints”; “It delighted me to have her as my guest”).  Also, a similar pattern that employs  “be” + ADJECTIVE  is extremely important and common (e.g., “It is useful to discuss these things”;  “It was impossible to understand what he was saying”;  “It’s nice to finally meet you”).


Verbs that follow the pattern  [it  +  VERB  +  INFINITIVE]

do, help, hurt, pay, remain


Additional examples of the pattern  [it  +  VERB  + INFINITIVE]

It won’t do to forget to bring the wedding ring.

It helps to get the opinion of others before making a decision.

It pays to get some hands-on experience.

It hurt to discover that he’d been lying to us all this time.

It remains to say just how grateful we are for this opportunity.




All grammatical patterns