I am wondering what "Can’t think of the last time I did that." means in the following sentences:

‘Actually,’ I say, ‘I’m not all that tired. And I don’t have to get up early tomorrow morning to deal with two crazy kids. There’s some wine in our room – I could go and grab it.’

She gives a small smile at this, the first I’ve seen. And then she reaches behind the sofa cushion and pulls out an expensive-looking bottle of vodka. ‘I nicked it from the kitchen earlier,’ she says.

‘Oh,’ I say. ‘Well, even better.’ This really is like being nineteen again.

She passes me the bottle. I unscrew the cap, take a swig. It burns a freezing streak down my throat and I gasp. ‘Wow. Can’t think of the last time I did that.’ I pass the bottle to her and wipe my mouth. ‘We got cut off, earlier, didn’t we? You were telling me about that guy – Callum? The break-up.’

Olivia shuts her eyes, takes a deep breath. ‘I guess the break-up was only the beginning,’ she says.

  • Lucy Foley, The Guest List, Chapter 15

Before the actual wedding day, at the rehearsal dinner, Hannah, Charlie's wife, leaves the dining room where the ushers are playing their drinking game (the Irish snap) to find Olivia (the bridesmaid) sitting next door. So they start to talk to each other.

In this part, I am wondering what "that" means. Does it refer to drinking straight from the bottle? Or "gasping" after drinking, as described in the previous sentence...?

  • Why would anyone make a comment about the last time they had gasped? Apr 21, 2021 at 10:52
  • Dear @KateBunting, thank you for the comment. That makes sense, I guess... I think I was confused because "gasp" is mentioned in the previous sentence. I sincerely appreciate your help. Apr 21, 2021 at 11:55

1 Answer 1


This is one of these sentences which is completely clear if you don't try to understand it by "rules" but use your understanding of people, actions, meaning and context.

There is only one action that is surprising, dramatic and worth the comment "I can't remember the last time I did that." That is swigging from a bottle of vodka.

It is not that it can't mean "gasping", if you only look at the grammar and meaning of the words. But pragmatically you understand the reference of a pronoun "that" in context, and in a way that is consistent with how people think. This is probably true in all languages that allow "that" to refer to an item that was mentioned earlier in a narrative.

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