Are both of these correct? I.e., can a relative pronoun refer to anything in the preceding sentence, or even earlier in the paragraph?

"Bob went to Costco to buy some bread. It was delicious." It refers to bread.

"Bob went to Costco to buy some bread. It was packed with people." It refers to Costco.

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    These are not relative constructions, since there is no relativised element. Just because "it" has an antecedent doesn't mean it's a relative pronoun.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 7:30
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    A relative pronoun is a word like "that", "which" or "who", in a sentence "A book that has a happy ending" or "A book that I enjoyed"
    – James K
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 7:41
  • Welcome to ELL, Kevin. As you have probably guessed from the previous comments, it is not a relative pronoun: it is in fact a personal pronoun. You can edit your question to remove the word relative. This will improve your question, and so you will get better answers.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 8:27

1 Answer 1


it can refer to just about anything in the previous sentence, and even to things that are merely implied by the previous sentence, for example:

Bob went to Costco to buy some bread. It was his last trip.

The writer/speaker is responsible for supplying sufficient context so that the reader/listener can tell what the pronoun represents.

Generally speaking, personal pronouns like it refer to something in the same or previous sentence but, if a paragraph contains several sentences, a pronoun can be repeated in every sentence to refer to something in the first sentence, though the thread might be lost if one sentence in the middle does not contain the pronoun.

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    "It" can even refer to different things within the same sentence - Bob phoned Alice to ask about buying her car. It was his third time of asking, but it still wasn't for sale. Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 12:29

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