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"That can have unfortunate consequences, and manifestations of the social malaise it can represent were evident at the fairground".

I do not understand what it represents? it=That can have unfortunate consequences or =manifestations of the social malaise?

Thanks in advance.

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  • 2
    The answer is in the sentence that comes before the one you have quoted here. That is one of the reasons we ask users to provide more context when they ask questions like this. Aug 10 at 6:16
  • I'd say that "it" has "that" as antecedent, where "that" is a pro-form referring to something in the preceding discourse.
    – BillJ
    Aug 10 at 6:32
  • HI, Jeffrey. giving you more context below about the sentence. "Perhaps it is time to renew some of their original modernising purpose. The flipside of small-town America’s nostalgia is mistrust of the future. That can have unfortunate consequences, and manifestations of the social malaise it can represent were evident at the fairground". Thanks so much.
    – Joesen1018
    Aug 10 at 6:32
  • You should edit your question to include the extra context instead of putting it in a comment. If you want someone to be notified that you replied to them, you use @ before their username, like @JeffreyCarney 👀 up ^^
    – ColleenV
    Aug 10 at 12:37
  • "it" = "that" so we don't know what either is
    – gotube
    Aug 11 at 3:43
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Based on your comments, the text looks like

Perhaps it is time to renew some of their original modernising purpose. The flipside of small-town America’s nostalgia is mistrust of the future. That can have unfortunate consequences, and manifestations of the social malaise it can represent were evident at the fairground[.]

Based on this, it seems like "small-town America's nostalgia", or maybe "mistrust of the future". The sentence, phrased like

Manifestations of the social malaise [small-town America's nostalgia] can represent were evident at the fairground[.]

Mainly because it would not make sense for it to refer to anything else here - the only things that can be a referent for 'it' in that quote is 'original modernising purpose', 'small-town America's nostalgia', 'mistrust of the future', 'unfortunate consequences', and '(manifestations of) the social malaise' - these are the only complete noun phrases in this quote.

At this point, I think it is possible to deduce the referent by trial and error - just substitute in each of these in turn and you should see that the only coherent results are "small-town America's nostalgia" and "mistrust of the future". Semantically, it doesn't make sense for social malaise to represent manifestations of social malaise, nor does it make sense for unfortunate consequences to represent manifestations of social malaise (social malaise is implied to cause unfortunate consequences). Similarly, 'original modernising purpose' is clearly not the referent, since that is presented as something positive, and thus not a representation of something negative.

Of course, we could have ruled out everything but "small-town America's nostalgia", "mistrust of the future", "unfortunate consequences", and maybe "social malaise" just based on syntactic proximity. The rest we can infer from its meaning.

-2

Based on the additional context you added in the comments*, "it" is almost definitely the "social malaise". [Edit: I'm not why I typed social malaise, I meant the nostalgia/mistrust. Must be a side effect of all the covid lockdowns. I also just learned that I can't downvote my own answer.]

[Edit2: But I can upvote the better, and very thorough, answer]

When I review my writing, I typically remove most of the indefinite pronouns (it, that, etc.). I prefer to risk having a sentence sound a bit awkward than to risk being misunderstood.

*(you should edit your question to include the extra sentences)

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