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When a situation is described using many sentences, can we use "it", "this", and "that" to refer to the whole thing? Down below are just some examples that might help you understand my question.

Example 1:

A: There was a blackout in my neighborhood last night. On top of that, a fire also broke out. I heard sounds of explosions clearly. I think they were from gas tanks. My neighbor's baby was also crying all night long. It/This/That was scary.


Example 2:

A: There was a blackout in my neighborhood last night. On top of that, a fire also broke out. I heard sounds of explosions clearly. I think they were from gas tanks. My neighbor's baby was also crying all night long.

B: It/This/That was scary.


Example 3:

A: There was a blackout in my neighborhood last night. On top of that, a fire also broke out. I heard sounds of explosions clearly. I think they were from gas tanks. My neighbor's baby was also crying all night long.

B: It/This/That was a crazy experience.


Example 4:

A: There was a blackout in my neighborhood last night. On top of that, a fire also broke out. I heard sounds of explosions clearly. I think they were from gas tanks. My neighbor's baby was also crying all night long.

B: What did you do about it/this/that?

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All three can be used in place of multiple sentences forming a single context. However "this" can't be used in your sentences for other reasons.

"This" refers to something that, for lack of a better explanation shares your time or space. So it can't refer to something that happened in the past, but only in the present.

"That" refers to something that's at a distance, either in time or space. So in your examples your talking about an event that happened in the past.

"It" is a more loose word, compared to the other two. doesn't have the distance constraints the other two have, but puts less emphasis on the particularity of the event your talking about.

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  • Thank you. I have a more clear understanding now. I appreciate that you expound on the nuances between their usages. Thank you again, Michael. – vincentlin Jan 9 at 13:40

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