What's the structure - 'It is snowing."

Questions from teachers about English grammar and usage

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What's the structure - 'It is snowing."

Unread post by UbuEng » Thu Jun 08, 2017 7:09 am

What is the best way to view the parts of speech in the following sentence:

[i]It is snowing.[/i]

Here's how I'm leaning: Subject + link verb (copula) + present participle adjective

[i]It [/i]is the situational subject, a pronoun that has the general situation as a referent.

The verb is [i]be[/i]. It is not the present continuous [i]is snowing[/i] because the situation lacks agency - the situation can't snow. However we could have a sentence like, 'It snows a lot in Vermont,' where in this tense the only option is that [i]snow [/i]is a verb.

[i]Snowing[/i] could be a gerund complement but I think it is functioning more like an adjective that describes the situation. The argument for [i]snowing[/i] being a gerund is that it could be seen as the thing the situation is, but the sentence only refers to an aspect of the general situation not the whole of it, so it cannot be just snowing. Hence the sentence is inherently descriptive of an aspect of the situation and [i]snowing[/i] must be an adjective.

This maybe a situation where usage has simply trumped grammar and there really is not definitive grammatical solution to understanding this structure grammatically.

Maybe it would be simpler if we all spoke like Yoda, 'Snowing, it is".

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