Yes, that is why I said a real, IDENTIFIED person. You can use it to refer to shadows and unidentified people. For example, 'I can see a shadow, I wonder who it is', or 'someone turned my computer off, I wonder who it was' , but you can never refer to a actual identified person as 'it'. For example you could never say, 'Our new doctor came round to see my wife yesterday, it treated her very well'. Here you would have to use one of 'he', 'she', 'he or she', or 'they', all of which have pros and cons but 'it' can never be used like this.
Just to be clear 'it' is not a way to avoid gender stereotyping in most cases.
Tyler...I see your point and for what "It" is worth, just gave you a lingot! It's precisely these user-exchanges that makes DL a language learning tool I stick with, aside from the practice I get from it. As for the occasional disagreement or controversy that flares up now and then among users, it merely underscores the passion most of us have for foreign languages and our own native languages as well. When that happens, i try to remember what it was Forrest Gump said which went something like " 'It' happens." :-)
Germanlehrerlsu, I think we agree, it does depend on context.
What I an doing is making clear the context in which you must NEVER use 'it' and in which it would be grossly insulting to do so.
The context in which you can never use 'it' is any time you are referring to a clearly identified individual person.
It is not a way to avoid gender stereotyping.
Tyler, my example of a clearer context holds. To have said, "He is a capable person, who speaks Italian," or "She is a capable person, who speaks Italian," would restrict the ability to one or the other gender. Using "it" avoids that gender restriction. Your examples of course are correct, but my point was that in certain wider contexts "it" is perfectly correct.
Yes, we do use 'it' like this but the 'it' in these examples does not refer directly to a person but more to an concept or abstraction. For example, in, 'It is your sister', the 'it' refers to 'the person who has just arrived' or 'the person who is knocking at the door'. Once we get to the 'your sister' bit we can no longer use 'it' to refer to this person, who we now know to be your sister. For example 'Who is that at the door?' 'IT is your sister and SHE is in a bad mood'. You cannot replace the 'she' with 'it'.
In English you refer to people using it all the time.
- Who's at the door? It's a salesman.
- What's that shadow in the picture? It's a person.
- Who's the developer? It's a very skilled person.
- Or even: Who is it? It's me
In fact one of the things that confuses Italian learning English the most is how you can use it for people.
Correct, and more specifically, as part of cleft sentences.
Replying to Macossay. "They" would still maintain the plural verb form (like "you"), even if used as a singular. "They ARE a capable person". We need someone to do this job and, whoever it is, I hope they are a capable person.
And, if you read the article in my earlier quote, the correctness of "they" dates back centuries.
"She kept her head and kicked her shoes off, as everybody ought to do who falls into deep water in their clothes.” C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
This example and others can be found in this rather long article on the rightness/not-wrongness of singular "they": https://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/singular-they-and-the-many-reasons-why-its-correct/
"I saw that someone was on the balcony; clearly, they could not see me."
Your confidence in your own correctness is misplaced in this instance. I suggest you read the article posted above by CatMcCat - they took the time to find and share the article, so that you might benefit from their effort.
Highwaysta1: "It" here is a 'filler' subject. It's non-specific, gender neutral, and perfectly acceptable. "He" and "She" if singular, "They" if obviously plural might all be preferable if the situation were gender specific, but "it" is absolutely acceptable: "It's a capable person, who knows how to speak a foreign language" is just one example of a situation where you'd want to avoid saying "He's a capable person..." or "She's a capable person..." and so forth.
No, it really is not absolutely acceptable. In specific instances where it is qualified, as with your example of 'It's a capable person who knows how to X' yes. But on its own. No, not even a little. Except in a certain SF series where it is the preferred nomenclature for hermaphrodites. People only refer to a person as 'it' if they want to take away their humanity. 'They' is perfectly acceptable however since it is used either for singular or plural. And has done for centuries.
Ariaflame: In the above example, "they" clearly wouldn't work: "They are a capable person"? Your example of science fiction hermaphrodites is frankly ridiculous and I don't know why you'd introduce it in a discussion like this. It's obvious you don't agree, despite acceptance of the special example I used, so let's leave it at that. There's no need to bring in linguistic assaults on humanity, as there is far too much of that in the real world as it is.
'They are a capable person' is perfectly good English, the singular they has a long usage. And the SF series I mentioned (Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold) is the only instance that I've seen 'it' being used about a specific person NOT being insulting. When you're talking specific people you don't use 'it'. This has been explained several times in these comments by Tyler.
Phil......Ariaflame & I had a similar exchange/disagreement. I see what you both mean and agree that when taken in isolation/out of context, "it" should not be used to refer to a person -- "he" or "she" obviously when speaking directly about someone who's gender is known; Ariaflame even suggested "they" which frankly I hadn't considered, but especially when contracted to "they're a ... person" works fine. My point was that when a sentence like that above is part of a context, the pronoun "it" is fine -- e.g. It is a capable person...,who knows how to speak Italian. Or "It's a wise person, who knows the value of a foreign language." Etc. Without that qualfier, I would also consider "it' incorrect, but when used as I've suggested I feel it's the most commonly heard option.
transkter: Not so. "It" can simply be a 'filler' subject or "place holder" in the absence of a more specific subject. With this sentence, you could easily imagine someone saying: "It's a capable person, who knows how to learn a foreign language." Use of either "he" or "she" would raise eyebrows in today's gender conscious world-- and legitimately so.
Lucy...I completely agree. The only way for it to make any sense would have been to include a clearer context, as e.g. "It is a capable person...who understands how to learn a foreign language." As written though it makes no sense and either "he" or "she" should have been listed as acceptable answers.
Nowhere that I can see does this sentence actually say 'it' in Italian or even English translation. Even literal word:word translation gives us, 'is a person capable', which, with proper structure forms 'she is a capable person'.
We know the sentence refers to a female as 'una persona' is feminine and will only change when we introduce a masculine pronoun.
È is 'is'. There is no 'it' (esso, suo, etc).
So, what did I miss that y'all are talking about 'it'?
Beck,F. One of the basics of Italian is that conjugated verbs don't need an explicitly stated subject. That's the situation here. The "It" you're looking for is implicit, understood in the verb form, which in this case could be either 'he, she, it, or you-formal". So e.g. Vai = YOU go; mangio = I eat; parliamo = WE talk, hanno = THEY have, etc. In the case of 3rd person forms, context will usually indicate whether the understood subject is 'he, she, it, or you-formal" Capisci?
Great explanation! Just one more thing regarding "We know the sentence refers to a female as 'una persona' is feminine": nope, not at all. This is why people shouldn't associate grammatical gender with the physical or social one: "la persona" is a person, it can be either gender, "la guardia" (the guard) isn't even a common occupation for a woman, "il giudice" (the judge) can very well be a woman, and so on. The whole sentence agrees with that, so it could have been "lui è una brava persona".
MarcusMaus: "It" as a general introductory subject is fine, especially since it avoids the tricky issue of whether a person in question is a male or female. Ex: "The firm needs a new president and IT should be a person with lots of experience." The alternative is to use "he or she" -- which while widespread in today's culture-- is still awkward. Use of "it" avoids that awkwardness and simply makes for a more direct, less cumbersome sentence.