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Parsing a Sentence

My friend sent me the following text and asked me whether it should be "is fine" or "are fine". In my opinion, it should be "is".

"Even if it is just the titles (that) you are sending me, (it) is fine, too."

(The words in the brackets are mine, by the way.) How do I explain my choice of the verb? Can I say that "it" is a preparatory subject and, therefore, the verb following it should be in the singular?

Please let me know whether I have parsed the sentence correctly:

Main clause: "it is fine, too".

Subordinate clause (aka adverbial clause):
"Even if it is just the titles (that) you are sending me"

Relative clause: "that you are sending me"

Thank you very much.

Comments

  • Hi @Antaryamin
    Interesting question!
    I've already forwarded it to our usual contributors, hopefully you will get some insightful replies soon! :)

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited January 2018

    For the sentence to feel grammatical, I believe we have to treat the clause

    Even if it's just the titles you're sending me

    not as ADVERBIAL but as the SUBJECT of

    is fine too

    This is acceptable as informal speech or text, but no analysis can make it acceptable in prose or in careful speech to a stranger.

    Normally, I would prefer

    Even if it's just the titles you're sending me, that's fine too.

    I would avoid the repeated it. The problem is

    • the first it refers to just the titles
    • a second it might refer to nothing — inserted just to supply a grammatical SUBJECT
    • alternatively, the second it might refer notional but not grammatically to the idea of sending just the titles
    • a second it couldn't refer to the plural titles

    @Antaryamin

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited January 2018

    I said he first it refers to just the titles. This is technically not quite true.

    There are (at least) three ways we might use it as the subject of a clause.

    1. He sent me the title. It was fine.
      This is what is technically meant by referring. The pronoun is a genuine replacement. The sentences are equivalent to
      He sent me the title. The title was fine.
      The usual rules apply as in
      He sent me the titles. They were fine.
      He sent me the a helper. He was fine.

    2. It's just the titles you're sending me
      Technically, we shouldn't say that it refers to the titles. We can't use they (or he or any other pronoun).
      This use of it doesn't replace anything. If we say
      The titles are just the titles you're sending me
      we mean something completely different. For this meaning we could say
      They are just the titles you're sending me
      This use of it is a way of emphasising just the titles
      In this clause the phrase emphasised is the OBJECT. We could do the same with the SUBJECT
      It's you that's sending me the titles
      or with the other phrase
      It's to me that you're sending the titles
      The technical name for sentences like these is CLEFT SENTENCES.

    3. It's fine.
      Here the pronoun doesn't refer to anything. And it doesn't change the emphasis. We use it's when everything everything after it makes sense but isn't grammatical because there isn't SUBJECT or a VERB. More examples
      It's raining.
      It's nice to see you.
      It's late.
      As with the CLEFT SENTENCES we use only it. We can't say:
      They are snowing
      She is nice to be here

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited January 2018

    I said

    We use it's when everything everything after it makes sense

    I was forgetting that we can also say it was — or it has been etc

    This is true for (2) CLEFT SENTENCES
    It was just the titles that you were sending me.
    It will be you that sends me the titles.

    And for (3) the sentences with meaningless_ it_
    It's been raining.
    It had been a nice day before you came.
    It snowed.

  • edited January 2018

    Thank you very much, @DavidCrosbie. I am now studying all your comments. Please give me some time to digest them---I shall get around to you presently, DavidCrosbie. Thank you for your patience.

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