In the sentences below:
'It's only a suggestion.'
'That's only a suggestion.'
I was told by most people that they could be used interchangeably, but I believe they exist for some reason that yet to be found out.
How do you differentiate them?
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You can use either "it" or "that" to refer to the thing that has just been written or talked about. The usage of the former is more common; however, the latter is more emphatic.