Somebody is knocking on the door. Which one should I say to my brother:

  1. Maybe it's your friend outside?

  2. Maybe that's your friend outside?


"It's" suggests that your brother has heard the noise, and it's clear that the noise has become the subject of the conversation; perhaps you both visibly acknowledged an awareness of it to each other, and are aware that an unspoken question has occurred: "What is that noise?" (Notice that "that" is stated in the question, and so has been established to the point where we can now refer to it as "it".) (At this point, you've both probably also acknowledged the source of the noise as being outside of the door, and so you'd likely just say, "Maybe it's your friend?")

In using "that", you are more pointing him towards the noise; it's sort of "over there", as you have not yet established it as the central point of the conversation. This phrasing also lends itself to being said simply as, "Maybe that's your friend?"

Most commonly you would hear "that".

You might also hear:

Is that your friend?


I do not agree with assumptions that implicate the location of where the knocking came from (as explained in the first answer to this question). That's because it's very well established that the noise is coming from the door, and that it would be asinine to assume that the sentence Maybe that's your friend outside? should locate the source of the noise.

And to answer your question, the former statement—Maybe it's your friend outside?— would be the most accepted form of questioning as to who'd be outside.

But in the latter statement, there is the use of that, which implicates that there is a certain way that the friend knocks. And when the knocking would happen, the people in the room would already have an idea of who exactly would be knocking, because there's the use of that. The latter is mostly used in scenarios wherein:

  • A particular guest is expected to arrive, and

  • The way the friend knocks gives away who they are

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