Grammatical pattern: it + VERB + WH-word/whether/if + CLAUSE

example: It MATTERS what you think.
It HELPS when she explains things more clearly.
  it VERB WH-word CLAUSE

A small number of intransitive verbs tend to be used with “it” as their grammatical subject and a WH-clause as their notional subject (the “real” subject of the sentence as far as the meaning of the sentence is concerned). In the first example above, the grammatical subject of the sentence is “it,” but the “real” subject is “what you think.”  The whole sentence with the WH-clause in the subject position is “What you think matters.”  In the second example, the sentence “It helps when they explain things more clearly” has the notional subject equivalent to “their explaining things more clearly.”  The same basic idea can be expressed as “Their explaining things more clearly helps.” Using the word “it” as a grammatical, though meaningless, subject for the verbs in these sentences allows speakers the option of putting the WH-clause in a position in the sentence that may feel more appropriate for an element that is relatively long compared with the verb part (the predicate) of the sentence.


Verbs that follow the pattern  [it  +  VERB + WH-word/whether/if + CLAUSE]

help, hurt, matter


Additional examples of the pattern [it  +  VERB + WH-word/whether/if + CLAUSE]

It matters what time we meet next week.

It hurts when you say things like that.

It helps when we are allowed to have more time to practice.




All grammatical patterns