Q: A Russian who teaches English in Moscow asked me about these sentences: (1) “Here is the key.” (2) “Here it is.” She wonders if “here” is the subject. Could you forward the cause of détente and shed some light on these structures?
A: Although each of those sentences begins with the word “here,” your student shouldn’t mistake it for the subject.
“Here” can be either an adverb or (less commonly) a noun.
It’s an adverb if it means “in this place” (as in “I was born here” or “Here is the car”).
It’s a noun if it means “this place” (as in “We leave here tomorrow” or in the expression “the here and now”).
In both sentences you ask about (“Here is the key” and “Here it is”), “here” is an adverb modifying the verb “is.”
The subjects of these sentences are “key” and “it.” In the first, the subject follows the verb; in the second, the subject precedes the verb.
The subject/verb order of the first sentence could easily be reversed (“The key is here”). But the same isn’t true of the second. “Here is it” is not idiomatic English.
Generally, when the pronoun “it” is used in place of a subject noun, it precedes the verb. An exception is an interrogative sentence (“Where is it?”).
“It” usually follows the verb if it’s an object instead of a subject. For example: “This is it.” (The subject is “this,” the object “it.”)
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