• Wallows
    This was a good topic to steal from the repertoire of @Banno over at the old PF.

    The question is the following:
    Where is the subject in the following sentence:

    "It is raining."
    I think I know the answer if memory serves me right, which I think I'll hold off on revealing.
  • Terrapin Station
    The subject is the (climatological) conditions outside.

    (Well, or i should clarify "What I'd normally take the subject to be in lieu of other information" . . . I dont want to suggest objectivist semantics.)
  • Wallows
    The subject is the (climatological) conditions outside.Terrapin Station

    What's that? the rain?
  • Terrapin Station

    You don't know what "climatological conditions outside" refers to?

    Just do one word at a time:

    Outside, or outdoors, not inside/indoors.

    Conditions--what the status of something is, what it's like

    Climatological, or rather I should have said meteorological --so that we're talking about the weather conditions outside and not something else.

    That's the subject of the sentence.
  • Wallows
    That's the subject of the sentence.Terrapin Station

    So, it's the 'rain' yes?
  • DingoJones

    No, the subject of the sentence is not a reference to itself. The rain isnt raining.
    Your question has been answered, the subject of that sentence is the weather conditions.
    Now what? You said this was an interesting topic...sorry, you said it was good. How so?
  • Wallows
    Your question has been answered, the subject of that sentence is the weather conditions.DingoJones

    So, the subject is the fact that it is raining by the weather conditions? Is that what "it" is pointing at in the sentence; "it is raining"?
  • Wallows

    How so? Your getting close to "it".
  • Valentinus
    The sentence is ostensive, pointing at the rain. As a matter of grammar that would separate agent and action, the rain is raining.
  • Wallows

    But, "raining" or "to rain" is a verb, not a subject.
  • Valentinus
    It is standing in for rain which is a noun.
  • Hanover
    What is the philosophical import of the question? The meaning of the sentence is not in dispute, which means at best you've found an anamolous grammatical structure in English. If the word "glurk" meant "rain is falling from the sky," what would the subject of the sentence "glurk" be? It'd be rain, even though "rain" appears nowhere in the sentence. What this means is that we look to the contextual meaning of the sentence for the subject and not the actual words within the sentence, but what does this show of great significance?
  • Banno
    Does every sentence have to have a subject?
  • Bitter Crank
    The subject is the pronoun "it" and whatever that pronoun is representing. In this case "it" stands in for the atmosphere, or the weather, or the clouds, or... whatever is reasonable. The moon isn't raining, and neither is the petunia.

    Does every sentence have to have a subject?Banno

    Every sentence has a subject (explicitly stated or 'understood') and a verb and often more -- much more. Utterances don't have to be sentences, of course. "Fuck you." makes perfect sense, but it lacks a subject. Same for "Shit" - which is an ejaculation (saying "amen" in church is an 'ejaculation').
  • Banno
    Every sentence has a subjectBitter Crank

    Cool. Looks good. But is this an observation, so that it just so happens that all sentences have a subject; or is it a definition, as in, if it doesn't have a subject, it's not a sentence?
  • Dawnstorm
    "Fuck you." makes perfect sense, but it lacks a subject.Bitter Crank

    Actually, that's an interesting case. "Fuck" in "Fuck you," looks like a lot a verb in the imperative, where people usually posit an understood subject, "you". However, if that were the case, we'd be expecting "Fuck yourslef," as in "Buy yourself a drink."

    I still think it's a normal sentence whose verb is in the imperative mood. I'm not sure what to do about the "you", though. It looks like an object, but if it were I'd expect a reflexive pronoun.

    When it comes to "It's raining," I prefer the "dummy subject" interpretation: "It" is all syntax and no reference. The verb carries all the referential meaning in the text.
  • Banno
    When it comes to "It's raining," I prefer the "dummy subject" interpretation: "It" is all syntax and no reference. The verb carries all the referential meaning in the text.Dawnstorm

    Neat. Any background on this? Other examples?
  • karl stone
    I think the subject is implied by - but not present in the sentence, and is the self. The sentence is another way of saying 'I experience raining.' The subject is the self - experiencing rain, implied by 'it' - which is the objective reality, relative to the subjective self.
  • Terrapin Station
    So, it's the 'rain' yes?Wallows

    You'd have to be trolling to respond to my post that way. What did I say the subject was?
  • Terrapin Station
    Does every sentence have to have a subject?Banno

    No. But this one does.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    What is the philosophical import of the question?Hanover

    Its philosophical import consists in how the most basic linguistic issue of no philosophical import can be taken to carry philosophical import.
  • jamalrob
    Unless you go with the Bitter Crank-Terrapin view that "it" refers to the conditions (which is the view of at least one linguist, so Google tells me), it's just a dummy subject, stuck in there to satisfy the syntactical rules of English. In Spanish you'd say "llueve". There's no subject, because of the way Spanish works.

    So along with some others here I suspect it's not a philosophical issue.

    EDIT: Just noticed that Dawnstorm made the same point.
  • Hanover
    I looked up how the various languages conveyed "It is raining." German says es regnet, meaning it raining (leaving out the "is"). French does the same with il pleut, leaving out the is. Moving away from Indo-European languages, Hebrew (using English letters) is yorad geshem, literally meaning rain is descending. It seems just a matter of convention. English uses the word "is" just to denote tense, as in "it is raining," instead of "It was raining" or "it will rain." Other languages don't resort to the word "it" to denote a general state of being (like Hebrew).

    Consider also the sentence "It is raining cats and dogs" with "cats and dogs" being the direct object, although really the direct object isn't an object at all because there are literally no cats and dogs falling from the sky. "Cats and dogs" in the sentence means "heavily" and describes how it is raining, making the objects (cats and dogs) actually an adverb (It is raining heavily). The fact that "it" in "it is raining" has no clear referent is as irrelevant as "cats and dogs" not actually referring to cats and dogs in the sentence "it is raining cats and dogs."
  • Hanover
    Cool. Looks good. But is this an observation, so that it just so happens that all sentences have a subject; or is it a definition, as in, if it doesn't have a subject, it's not a sentence?Banno

    Choice B, in order to be a sentence, it must have a subject by definition, but a fully formed thought need not have an explicit subject, as in @jamalrob's statement above where he said "fascinating." What's the subject of that statement? It is a fully formed thought with a clear meaning though.

    Also, note that the word "fascinating" doesn't even mean fascinating in the sarcastic way he used it. I think what it really means here that it's not really all that fascinating.
  • Baden
    Try "The house is painting" (obsolete way of saying "The house is being painted") or "There you are!" (let's play 'find the subject' again) for more grammar fun.

    Btw, the broad definition of a sentence includes "minor sentences" such as "Oh!" etc. You don't need a subject:


    And, yes, this isn't philosophy as far as I can see, so moved to Questions category.
  • Baden
    (which is the view of at least one linguist, so Google tells me),jamalrob

    There's always one... :sad:
  • Dan84
    I have no formal education in English grammar or anything, left school very early. So please forgive mistakes and please correct

    I haven’t read the answer from Hanover, although by the looks of it I should.

    ‘Is’ is a ‘to be’ verb right? and if taken to mean ‘to
    be’ in this sentence then in it can’t be the subject.

    I wonder if we can make a case for IS by another route, will attempt later.

    So we have a choice between IT and RAINING.

    I might be wrong but in indo-European languages normal word order would have subject before object.

    IT could denote anything so we could call it the universe and this would be indicative of the subject right?

    RAINING is a straight up adjective right?

    Present active - that relevant or even correct?

    IT can be a pronoun so we can absolutely make IT the subject.

    IS- although unlikely....

    A hypothetical conversation.

    Man 1: what is it?

    Man 2: It IS. * feels the drops of rain on his head, looks up and sighing states “Raining, while leaving no gap in conversation to indicate any hesistation etc.

    If ‘it’ IS. Then is IT an adjective and IS the subject?while RAINING is just extraneous information?

    Am I correct with that line of thinking?
    Outside of context?
    Just plain dumb.

    However stupid that answer may be the other question of is this philosophy then I think it is. I think philosophy is the pursuit of truth and beauty, language and linguistics is certainly a treasure trove of truth and beauty.
  • Terrapin Station
    It's not clear to me why this one would be perplexing to anyone. "It" is a pronoun, just like "he" or "she." You're not confused by "He is running" are you? "It is raining" works just the same. You simply figure out what the pronoun is referring to--in this case, the meteorological conditions outside. "It is raining," "It is snowing," "It is windy," etc. Those sentences simply tell you something about the meteorological conditions outside.

    Philosophy is weird when it does stuff that amounts to "trying to figure out stuff that kindergartners know (via pretending that there's something inscrutable about it.)" Sometimes it almost seems like folks must simply be bored--or desperately trying to find a novel dissertation topic--so enter strained-puzzle-creation mode about mundane shit.
  • Baden

    It is obvious that you're wrong that the "it" in "It is raining" behaves like any other subject pronoun (or that all pronouns behave the same way).

    Now take the first "it" in the sentence above and try replacing it with a noun phrase to find out why.
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