When to use the word that , it seems that it can be used almost every where !

Please tell me what's wrong in this sentence :

"my question is that I'm asking about that I want to know that if it's correct that to use that"

Maybe I should ask when NOT to use that .

  • 5
    The mistake here is to believe that there is only one word that. In fact, there are at least three different ones, with three different meanings, and three different uses. One is a demonstrative (this that these those), one is a relative pronoun (the book that he read), and one is a complementizer introducing a tensed clause (I think that he is wrong). When you learn to recognize the differences, you won't be confused. Jan 17, 2014 at 22:46
  • Even surprising - It is true for all that that that that that that that refers to is not the same that that that that refers to.
    – Maulik V
    Jan 18, 2014 at 5:17
  • @MaulikV It's impressive that you can parse that! I'm afraid I'm not quite so gifted. (My brain also fails when people try to feed it arbitrary strings of buffalo.)
    – user230
    Jan 18, 2014 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


"That" is a pronoun used for identification.

"What is that?" (accompanied by pointing)
"Where is that?" (referring to a location just mentioned)
"It's that time of day again." (referring to the current time and some generalization about it)

"That" should only be used when a more specific noun is lacking or not worth repeating. For that reason (did you really want me to repeat the previous sentence?) it is often used when inquiring as to what the noun should be. The above examples, for instance, are each expecting a noun or an explanation in return.

If you're familiar with programming concepts, consider "that" as a variable that can be assigned almost any value based on context and inferred meaning.

Alternatively, consider it as a box in which you can place a word, concept, idea, or anything else that can be referenced. Once the thing is in the box, you can simply refer to the box to make the communication more efficient. The only requirement for what can be placed in the box is that the receiver knows what was placed in the box. (In the previous sentence, "that" was used to signify that what followed was being assigned to the word "that". Try the sentence without it and you may notice the lack of clarity.)

Does that make sense? (again reducing the word count by using the "that" box to refer to the last thing present, in this case the previous sentence) In your example sentence there are multiple redundancies. It could be simplified to, "Is it correct to use the word that in this manner?"

"My question", "I'm asking", and "is (followed by a question mark)" all communicate the same thing, and "is" has the fewest syllables making it more efficient. The phrase, "the word" is an attempt to clarify that the following word is the subject.


Here is one way to improve the sentence,

My question is that1 I'm asking about that2 what I want to know, which is that3 if it's correct that4 to use that5.

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