English Grammar

Expletives

by Eugene R. Moutoux

1. An expletive is a word that has a function but little or no meaning. The word as is an expletive when its function is to introduce a predicate nominative: She was chosen as her schoolís representative. The expletives or, such as, namely, for example, actually, etc. are sometimes used to introduce appositives: Siamese fighting fish, or bettas, are fun to breed. She plays four musical instruments, namely, piano, cello, clarinet, and flute.

* * * * *

2. There is only one "there" there? Wow, three theres! What is going on? Well, the last there is an adverb; it tells where the one there is. The middle there is a word used as a word, and such a word is a noun. The first there is the one that interests us especially in this lesson. Itís an expletive. Remember, an expletive is a word that has a function but little or no meaning. In this sentence, the first there tells the reader that the appearance of the subject, whose normal position is before the verb, will be delayed until after the verb; other than that, the first there does not do or mean anything at all. Here are several examples of there used as an expletive:

- There is pie in the refrigerator. (The subject of the sentence is pie.)

- There hasnít been any news this morning. (The subject of the sentence is news. By the way, morning is an adverbial objective.)

- Are there any fish in your pond? (The subject of the sentence is fish.)

- Over there there is an old wheelbarrow. (The expletive is the second there. The first there is an adverb.)

 

3. When the words that, whether, and if (in the sense of whether) introduce noun clauses, they are expletives. Here are  several examples:

- She told her mother that she had a toothache.

- He wondered whether he had enough time.

- Do you know if the mail has arrived?

- from the teacher's enlarged edition of my book Diagramming Step by Step: One Hundred and Fifty-one Steps to Diagramming Excellence

Sentence Diagrams, main page
German-Latin-English, my home page
English Grammar