Sophie is working in Spain this week to write about the local fiestas. She phones Oliver to tell him all about it.

We often use there + to be and It … as a subject but they do not refer to any object. There is / are is used to introduce a topic, or say that something exists. It … is often used for the weather, time and distance.

Can I have some examples of there is / there are, please?

There's so much happening.
Is there anything much going on at the moment?
There are two new students in our class.
There aren't any good football matches on TV this week.

What about other tenses? Is there is / there are only used in the present?

No, you can change the tense.

There were fire-breathing dragons in the streets.
Were there any accidents?
I think there'll be loads of people at the festival.
There haven't been many entries for the competition.

I'm a bit confused about when to use there is / there are and when to use it or they.

Have a look at these sentences. The topic is introduced with there is / are, then it and they refer back to something already mentioned.

There's a good film on channel 2. It starts at 10 o'clock.    (It = the film)
There are two new students in our class. They're from Brazil. (They = the students)

So you can't use it or they as subjects in the first sentences?

No, you can't.

OK, but you can start some sentences with it, can't you? Like, 'It's very hot today.'

Yes. We use it for talking about the weather, time, distance and days and dates.

It's warm and sunny
What time is it? > It's only 6 o'clock
How far is it to the shopping centre? > It's three km to my house from here. It's a long way to walk.
It's Saturday tomorrow, great!
What's the date? It's November 18th.

Phew! That's quite a lot of uses!

Yes, and there's more. We also use it + to be + adjective + infinitive clauses. In these sentences it refers forwards to the infinitive clause.

It's nice to meet you.
It's hard to hear anything with this noise.
Was it easy to understand him?
It'll be difficult to find the venue without a map.

OK, that's enough for one grammar snack. It's time to go.

That's a good it expression!

It's very good of you to say so!

Yes, it really is time to stop now! Bye!

 

Language level: 

Discussion

Are there any unusual local celebrations where you live? Tell us about them here.

Comments

Ameno's picture
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Ameno 5 November, 2015 - 16:50

The two biggest unusual celebrations we have here are Valborg and Midsummer. At midsummer all the relatives meets at one place, sings traditional songs and dances around the "midsummer pole". But not all the people do that. When it's Valborg people gather lots of "sticks" from the trees and then burn it. People often bring marshmallows to grill them during Valborg.

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LallareN's picture
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LallareN 5 November, 2015 - 16:46

The only weird swedish holiday must be midsummer where people sing songs about frogs and pretend to be one all while they're dancing around a pole with two holes . To swedes it is normal but to others it might seem crazy.

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Aaaa's picture
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Aaaa 5 November, 2015 - 16:45

Since everyone has already written about Midsummer am I going to write about the weird tradition to put dried cloves on the shells of oranges around Christmas (even though I don't know anyone who actually does this at home). I guess the only reason that we do this is because it smells good and in Sweden we only have oranges in the winter season. But it's still kind of weird.

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Araz21's picture
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Araz21 5 November, 2015 - 16:45

In Sweden, we celebrate Midsummer which is an unusual tradion for people who don't live in sweden but it's not odd for those who live in sweden. In midsummer, you dance around a pole and sing a song about frogs.

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matildae's picture
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matildae 5 November, 2015 - 16:26

In Sweden we have some unusual celebrations, such as Midsummer and Walpurgis. On Midsummer we dance around a pole which is decorated with flowers, and on Walpurgis we make bonfires. One thing many swedish celebrations have in common, is that we always eat traditional swish foods like potatoes and herring.

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ainexs's picture
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ainexs 5 November, 2015 - 16:10

Many people have already written about how strange midsummer is here in Sweden, and I can't do more than agree. It's strange when you think about it. You have a big pole which has to balls on the side, and you make it look nice with flowers and stuff, and then you just dance around it and sing weird songs. The lyrics are just so weird, and kind of confusing! In one song you sing about frogs, and how they live...

But at the same time we celebrate really nice things, like Lucia, for example! I really enjoy that time of year, it's just so cozy!

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littlewanderer's picture
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littlewanderer 4 November, 2015 - 18:53

We actually have three days dedicated to different kinds of pastry. One is the day of the "semla", which is a sweet bun with whipped cream and almond paste dusted with powdered sugar. Another is the day of the cinnamon roll, and the last one is the waffle day. I think it's quite amusing, maybe this is a reason why "fika" (basically the act of having coffee and pastry) is so popular in sweden.

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mmcats's picture
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mmcats 4 November, 2015 - 17:38

In Sweden we have quite strange traditions when you think about it. For example we have "Midsummer", we dance around a pole covered in flowers and sing a song about frogs... we also have "Valborg" where we burn a lot of wood. I guess I am just used to it and that is why I do not find these things to be odd.

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its_me00's picture
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its_me00 4 November, 2015 - 10:03

It's funny how when you actually think about the traditions in your country you realize how strange most of them are. Here in sweden I think most of our traditions are pretty strange in some way, from the frog-dancing around a decorated pole at midsummer to dressing in nightgowns and putting lit candles and cones on your head at St. Lucia.

It is certainly not limited to Sweden though, and I think most traditions around the world have an element of strangeness to them to some degree. Although you have to admit... watching Donald Duck every christmas is pretty weird... XD

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Dave___00's picture
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Dave___00 4 November, 2015 - 09:32

in sweden we have something called "valborg" wich is when everybody become pyromaniac and burn all the wood or other stuff that can burn and we do it 31th of may.

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jasssrentas's picture
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jasssrentas 4 November, 2015 - 09:23

i find that most holidays in Sweden aren't very strange. a lot of people say that midsummer is weird because of the song and dance but that is almost only children that d.ance and/or sing. other than that we don't have any special celebrations that are unique to sweden

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ebbanilsson's picture
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ebbanilsson 4 November, 2015 - 07:50

In Sweden we have a holiday called Midsummer and I am not the first one to mention Midsummer in this discussion thread. What you do is dancing around a pole and singing songs while the adults drink very much. It's quite unusual and a little bit strange according to me.

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lor123's picture
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lor123 3 November, 2015 - 20:04

It depends on what you view as strange but in Sweden there is a holiday called Midsummer, or "Midsommar" here in Sweden. On Midsummer it's all about dancing around a pole and that's something (the dances in particular) that can be viewed as weird.

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adde00's picture
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adde00 3 November, 2015 - 19:01

Two unusual celebrations that I can think of right now are ”Walpurgis night” and ”Midsummer”. Why we celebrate Walpurgis night is because we would like to celebrate that the summer has arrived. We celebrate Walpurgis night by making a big fire and gather around it together and eat and drink something.
The reason why we celebrate Midsummer is because the summer has begun and it is the brightest time of the year. During Midsummer we dance around a big pole that is dressed in flowers and leaves and we eat delicious food together wth our friends.

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IWOUTO1337's picture
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IWOUTO1337 3 November, 2015 - 12:40

Here in Sweden where I live we have some quite extraordinary things that we celebrate. For example midsummer (that I see a lot of people have written about). During this holiday we basically dance around a pole that is dressed in flowers. we also eat fermented herring We also celebrate the waffle which is quite weird during what we call "voffelldagen", translated to the "waffel day" in english. This holiday speaks for itself, we eat waffles.

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linkan1337's picture
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linkan1337 3 November, 2015 - 12:40

Here in Sweden where I live, we have some very weird holidays, for example the most famous midsummer, where we dance around a pole pretending we are frogs. We also always eat fermented herring on same the afternoon and hope it's not raining so we can sit outside, but it's Swedish summer so we always sit inside!

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00sil02's picture
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00sil02 2 November, 2015 - 19:27

In Sweden we have a celebration called "Midsommar" or Midsummer in English. It takes place in June. We dance around a pole and have flowers in our hair. For example we sing "Små grodorna" (The small frogs) and jump around the pole. When I think about it it's really strange actually. In Sweden we also celebrate Valborg. We build up a big pile of trees and wood and then we put it on fire. In Lund Valborg is really special because many people come here from all over Sweden. People also get drunk at both Valborg and Midsommar, which I think is sad. I think that you can have fun without alcohol.

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Emilia's picture
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Emilia 2 November, 2015 - 17:13

In Sweden, we have a tradition called midsummer. People gather and dance around a maypole, which is a pole made of wood and covered with flowers and leaves. I think it's an unusual tradition

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TheVolumebar's picture
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TheVolumebar 2 November, 2015 - 17:05

I guess it's not unusual, just a bit strange. In my village we have a market, sort of a fair I suppose, every year in the honour of the village. It's not much but me and my mum goes there almost every year. Around the center of the village people put up tables and they sell plants and old toys, it's basically n excuse to get rid of things you don't want. Therefore I find it so strange. It is like a christmas market in the middle of spring, we got a bouncing catsle and small local shop gives you free samples and sells different kinds of for example bread, like the bakery sometimes does, then they usally do. It's odd, but my mum wants me to follow, so I go on it, ever year.

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Stinaj's picture
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Stinaj 2 November, 2015 - 14:38

In Sweden we celebrate midsummer, where we dance around a maypole and dance like frogs. Adults also drink a lot and sing drinking-songs. I actually don't know the origin of the celebration but I've always thought it was quite unusual.

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remus's picture
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remus 1 December, 2014 - 13:29

In Sweden, I guess that Midsummer is the strangest celebrated thing here... We dance around maypoles, in june so the name doesn't even make any sense, and jump like frogs and just gives adults an excuse to drink a lot.
I usually doesn't celerate Midsummer because I think that it's pointless.

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Magna99's picture
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Magna99 12 November, 2014 - 16:24

I am from Iceland but have lived in Sweden for 9 years now. I think that the most unique holiday here is midsummer. Midsummer is always celebrated in the end of June, often between the 19:th and the 26:th. We raise and dance around a maypole covered with flowers and eat a lot of strawberries. We also sing about funny frogs.

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Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 13 November, 2014 - 01:09

Hi Magna. That sounds like an interesting festival. In England there's a similar festival with dancing round a maypole but it happens in Spring - 1st May, and it's more commonly celebrated in towns and villages in the countryside rather than big cities. It's a really nice time of year but it can be a bit rainy.

Speaking of Iceland, at the moment the LearnEnglish Teens Team are working on a new grammar video set in Iceland, so look out for that soon! :)

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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OrigamiCrane's picture
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OrigamiCrane 9 November, 2014 - 23:30

In my town the university students make a carnival every four years. They always have some kind of fun theme, last time it was the future and they had a big parade with trucks dressed up like different things they imagined for the future (or they just thought it looked funny).

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DagJensen's picture
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DagJensen 9 November, 2014 - 20:46

In Lund we celebrate "Valborg". It's quite a weird tradition, but that's the students fault. It's basically so that everyone go to the central park downtown and get drunk. And that's it.
A better tradition is the carnival which takes place every fourth year. There are always great music acts coming to play, and there's even a carnival train, It's amazing, and that's like the only time it feels like we're living in a proper city and not a small university town.

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Streetlamp's picture
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Streetlamp 9 November, 2014 - 13:31

In Sweden we have midsummer. I'm not really sure why we celebrate it but I think it is because of the summer solstice. We celebrate it by dancing in a ring around a large cross and singing weird songs. After that we eat all sorts of food like herring, eggs and strawberries.

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CarlosBocket 8 November, 2014 - 19:55

In my town we have a carnival every fourth year, it's not really like the carnival they have in Rio de Janeiro but it's still a lot fun.

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CarlosBocket's picture
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CarlosBocket 8 November, 2014 - 19:55

In my town we have a carnival every fourth year, it's not really like the carnival they have in Rio de Janeiro but it's still a lot fun

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DanEman 8 November, 2014 - 19:25

I have to say the Swedish national day. Now you may think, "but celebrating a national day isn't weird!?" But hear me out. The thing about how we swedes celebrate our national day is that we don't celebrate it at all! Yeah we hoist the flag and maybe eat the same things we do on all of our other celebrations but not more than that. No fireworks or parades, no special events or anything like that. That's why I think that the Swedish national day is a very weird thing that we "celebrate".

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