>>: Anticipatory "it" can also be a subject: >>: It seems to me that your question is an interesting one. ^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Note that, if it mean anything in this sentence, it means exactly the same thing as the that-clause at the end.
>>: Me parece [no "it"] que tu pregunta...Note here that it used to be possible in English to say
>>: It is necessary that every man do his duty. >>: Es necesario [again, no "it"] que cada hombre...Here (though not with seem, which has a lot of peculiar syntax), there's another construction still possible (though quite awkward and possibly becoming extinct), in which the it isn't used and the that-complement retains the subject role:
It's not so easy to fool little girls as it used to be. ^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^It is indeed the subject here, as witness its retention in the equative clause; but since it's equivalent to the complement, the complement is also in some sense "the subject". Complement, in fact, means "clause functioning as a noun", normally either subject or direct object, occasionally as prepositional object or other oblique noun.
The whole thing goes under the name of Extraposition in the trade, and seems to work to keep subject complement clauses from assuming the normal subject position preceding the verb. The usual explanation for it is that English, being a right-branching language, and having a decided preference for getting at least an auxiliary verb, if not the whole verb, to be the second word in the sentence, dislikes having "heavy" elements like clauses usurping the beginning of the sentence. So the clause is demoted and sent to the end of the line and a usurper ('dummy') it takes the place, allowing us to get to the verb right away and figure out what the subject is in our own good time. Seems to work OK.
In an inflected language like Spanish, there's sufficient freedom in word order to allow subjects to be placed just about anywhere on a stylistic whim; but English is rather fussier about where things go, and it just won't do to have subjects lying about anywhere at all. You have to have something up there at the beginning, and it is the traditional choice.
Other 'dummy it' constructions include:
It's a long way to Tipperary. [distance it] It's raining, it's pouring. [weather it]The test for extraposition it is whether there's a complement clause (tensed that, infinitive, or rather less frequently a gerund) at the end of the sentence, and whether one can replace the it with the complement clause and have it make sense.
I say make sense because sometimes extraposition is
obligatory, as it is with seem. The sentence
--- Followup --
> But note that both > That he's an idiot seems clear to me. > and > It seems clear to me that he's an idiot. > are grammatical. Is it only with "naked `seem'" that > extraposition is obligatory? Seems true to me.I really should have known better than to open that particular can of worms in a.u.e; I said that seem had some pretty crazy syntax, remember.
This is a bit hard to explain in ASCII; bear with me, please.
First, some equivalences:
> That he's an idiot seems clear to me. = That he's an idiot seems to be clear to me. = That he's an idiot seems to me to be clear. = It seems to be clear to me that he's an idiot. = It seems to me to be clear that he's an idiot.In other words, clear after seem really is the remains of an infinitive with to be; this is pretty common with adjectival predicates. More crucially for this example, both clear and seem are experiential predicates, and refer to an experiencer (marked with to if present), and both of them take complements.
Notice, in fact, that the grammaticality of the sentence depends
on the fact that clear takes a complement:
*[The wall is red] seems (to me). Original It seems (to me) [that the wall is red] Extraposition The wall seems (to be) red (to me). Raising ^^^^^^^^ (^^^^^) ^^^ [That Frank is the culprit] is widely believed. Original It is widely believed [that Frank is the culprit]. Extraposition Frank is widely believed [to be the culprit]. Raising ^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ [That the payroll will be stolen] is likely. Original It is likely [that the payroll will be stolen]. Extraposition The payroll is likely [to be stolen]. Raising ^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^Obviously, it's not Frank who's widely believed, nor the payroll itself which is likely; both of these are transforms of the original sentence. A somewhat hairier version of the constraint I cited in my original post (that Extraposition was obligatory with seem) would be that either Extraposition (of a that-clause) or Raising (from an infinitive) was obligatory with seem:
*[That communism is dead] seems (to me). Original It seems (to me) [that communism is dead]. Extraposition [that] Communism seems (to me) [to be dead]. Raising [infinitive] Communism seems dead (to me). Raising + to be-deletionThus, in the sentences adduced:
> That he's an idiot seems clear to me > and > It seems clear to me that he's an idiot.the derivation goes:
*[[That he's an idiot] to be clear] seems to me. Original [That he's an idiot] seems [to be clear] to me . Subject-Raising ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^ [That he's an idiot] seems clear to me. To be-Deletion It seems clear to me [that he's an idiot] ExtrapositionThere's quite a lot more that could be said about these, and about allied phenomena, but I hereby forbear. Remember, you asked.