Grammar: Extraposition

Grammar in EAP


Extraposition refers to a process of moving (extraposing) an embedded clause from its usual position to the end of the sentence.This usually involves the use of the introductoryit construction.

For example:

That income tax will be reduced is unlikely.

It is unlikely that income tax will be reduced.

This is common in academic texts, especially with adjectives of necessity or importance, such as “sensible, essential, vital. important, desirable”  (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, pp. 673-674).

The most common types of extraposition are:

  1. It is impossible to understand what followed.

  2. It is unclear why the results occurred.

  3. It is essential to have a boundary region or origin, from which position is measured.

More examples are:

  1. It is important to remember that Klein’s parents came to Canada in response to one of the many pogroms that took place in Russia and Poland at the beginning of the twentieth century.

  2. It is essential that the therapist should try to incorporate preventive measures in his treatment.

  3. It is not clear why the effect of the retention interval should be especially marked when the pre-exposure flavour is different from that used in the subsequent phases of the study.

  4. It is interesting to note that severe physical exercise in the daytime is sometimes associated with increased deep sleep the following night; perhaps there is a link here between deep sleep, an increase in growth hormone release, and the growth of muscular tissue that is produced by exercise.

  5. It seems plausible that the Asian orang-utan represents an early forest specialization.

  6. It seems unlikely that, seventy years later, Ulpian thought that all difference between the two institutions had been eliminated.

  7. It seems difficult to exclude everyday physical contact with others.

  8. It is possible that a number of other political changes would have got under way.

  9. It was important, therefore, that the government try to establish how the decision to fight the election came about.


Try this exercise: Grammar: Extraposition

Common phrases used in academic texts are (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, pp. 1019-1020):

“it is possible to …, it is not possible to …, it is necessary to …, it is interesting to …, it is difficult to …, it is easy to …

it can be seen that …, it should be noted that …, it has been shown that …, it has been suggested that …, it was found that …, it is not surprising that …

it is interesting to note that …”


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