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Soon after that, a very strange person stepped out from the trees into the light of the lamp-post.

So, my question is, can the determiner that appear as a formal subject in this sentence. It is pointing back on something that has happened before, isn't it?

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2 Answers 2

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It isn't the subject - it is part of an adverb phrase. The subject of the sentence is the "very strange person".

Soon after that, a very strange person stepped out from the trees into the light of the lamp-post.

"That" refers to the previously stated events, and the phrase "soon after that" serves to place what follows as part of a sequence of events. The phrase is acting as an adverb phrase. It could be replaced with the adverb "next" and the sentence would mean the same:

Next, a very strange person stepped out from the trees into the light of the lamp-post.

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  • I disagree slightly. "soon after" can be replaced with "next" but then you have lost "that" (i.e the word we are being asked about). We need to know the previous sentence in order to know what "that" refers to. Nov 1, 2020 at 21:49
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    @chasly-supportsMonica "Next" means that it comes after whatever was previously stated - whatever "that" was. I agree it isn't as rich as we lose "soon" but I think it helps to make the point about it acting as an adverb.
    – Astralbee
    Nov 2, 2020 at 9:29
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This is a single clause sentence and the subject of that sentence is "a very strange person".

The word "that" is a pronoun. It refers to some event that must have been described in a previous sentence.

It is correct to use "that".

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