I can't understand the difference between "it" and "that".

What is the difference between:

Was it a problem?


Was that a problem?

1 Answer 1


That refers to things that have a prior antecedent, meaning it has a reference to something previously mentioned. That can also be used to clarify a contrast between two references.

Where to find what "this" and "that" refer to?

It is similar to that but doesn't not require an antecedent.

If someone spoke of two problems, that would typically refer to the latest problem mentioned, but if you used it, the hearer may not know which problem you were asking about.

“It” vs. “that”

  • 1
    "That" requires a prior antecedent? But I can use "that" to refer to something I haven't previously mentioned, like if I point at something and say "Look at that!", or if I eat a meal and then say "That was really good." Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 0:35
  • Yes, but in those cases the reference is right in from of you. That is used for something specific. When the subject is no longer in view, that can help clarify what is being referred to Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 0:37

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