[Ads-l] The part of speech of it

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Thu Oct 1 09:15:04 UTC 2015

In various children’s games, such as tag, freeze tag and hide-and-seek, one person is designated as it, which perhaps can be summarized as the person having the role of making someone else it according to various rules. Wiktionary and the Oxford Dictionary site say the role is to catch other players. I don’t think the caller in mother, may I? or Simon says is referred to as it.

Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/it#Noun) lists this as a noun and the Oxford Dictionary site (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/american_english/it#IT) lists it as a pronoun.

1. Noun?
If if it’s a noun, you should be able to say, 

* “Rachel’s the it.” 

(Wiktionary but not Oxford has a different definition that probably works for this.)

2. Pronoun?
If it’s a pronoun, you should be able to say, 

* “Rachel is it. It is trying to catch me!”

Neither of those work, and the Wiktionary illustrative sentence (which appears to not be a citation) is, "In the next game, Adam and Tom will be it…” showing that this “it” can be plural.

3. Proper noun?
I don’t think it’s a proper noun, either, along the lines of Miss America: 

Rachel was last year’s Miss America/ * yesterday's it

4. Predicate adjective?
Could it be a predicate adjective, along the lines of “aglow"? 

The ice rink was aglow
Rachel was aglow

* The aglow ice rink
* The it Rachel

My first guess is predicate adjective and second proper noun.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA

Learn Ainu! https://sites.google.com/site/aynuitak1/
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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