Do or Do Not

“Do or do not. There is no try.”    — Yoda

I picked this quotation because it illustrates one of my favorite grammatical concepts: dummies.

I’m not talking about people who don’t know whether it should be “John and me” or “John and I,” or people who abuse the subjunctive by saying “If I was…” I’m talking about linguistic clutter, words without content which nevertheless have a grammatical function.

For example: “There” is an adverb meaning “in, to, or at that place or position.” Not complicated.

Hypothetical Girl Telling Pointless Story: So, there’s this guy who keeps texting me. So, yesterday he says–

Me (looking around): Where?

HGTPS: Huh? Where what?

Me: Where is he — the guy who’s bothering you?

HGTPS: How should I know? That’s not important. So, he’s texting me–

Me: You said he was there. You said, “There’s this guy…”

HGTPS: I didn’t mean he’s there. I just mean there’s this guy who keeps texting me.

Me (enlightened): Ah, you mean the dummy subject.

HGTPS (nodding): Yeah, he’s an idiot. So, he texts me…

In the  preceding dialog, as in Yoda’s quotation, ‘there’ is not an adverb, nor any sort of ‘content’ word. It is a grammatical dummy, taking the place of the true subject, “this guy” in an inverted word-order sentence. The sentence really means: “A guy exists, who keeps texting me.” But nobody talks that way. More

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