Assuming you're parents that see your young son doing something you don't like, and you want to avoid him to do it. What's of these following ways more natural?

Don't do it!


Don't do that!

  • 1
    Don't do it is only meaningful if it is already established what it is: this might be the case, for example, if you have already warned him once. But Don't do that is more natural in most cases, even where the action is already known.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 29, 2020 at 16:48
  • "... and you want to avoid him to do it." should be "... and you want to prevent him from doing it." or something like that.
    – AIQ
    Jun 29, 2020 at 16:50
  • 4
    Does this answer your question? “It” vs. “that”. See also it VS. this Vs. that and difference between “it” vs “this” vs “that”, among others. Jun 29, 2020 at 17:57
  • Maybe I'm mistaken, but it could be that people say one of them more often (to their children), independently on the context? (I know the differences between it / that and this, but the question is more about idiomatic or colloquial language) Jun 29, 2020 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


They are essentially interchangeable.

Corpus data from parental spoken language is so rare, it would be difficult to establish which is more frequent or idiomatic.

Based on the discourse function of "that", don't do that! sounds a bit more like a reproach after a child has done something bad ("that" thing), e.g. after the child already pulled someone's hair.

Don't do it! could be more of a warning as the child is ready to do something bad ("it"). This is not a precise distinction, though, and they are interchangeable.

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