I know "that" is used to refer to a thing that isn’t near you. Particularly, in this case is it worth to use "that", or more common to use "it"? From the point of view of who is being told this, does this choice matter or not?

Is that my pen you’ve got there?

Is it my pen you’ve got there?

My edit that developed from the answers.

From Longman dictionary:

"That" - Used to refer to a person, thing, idea etc that has already been mentioned or is already known about.

"It" - Used to refer to a thing, animal, idea etc that has already been mentioned or is already known about.

How is it possible to choose "that" or "it" in this case?

2 Answers 2

  • "It" is usually used to refer to something previously mentioned, or apparently obvious.
  • "That" is used to draw attention to something that may not have been previously mentioned.

For example, if you were visiting the Eiffel Tower with your friend and you spotted the landmark before your friend did, you could draw attention to it by saying "that's the Eiffel Tower!" However, if you both noticed it and it was obvious that both your attentions were on it, even if you haven't verbally referred to it, you might say "it's not as big as I imagined".

If you are making this statement without any previous mention of the pen, or it hasn't been made obvious some other way which pen you are referring to, then it is better to use "that", because you need to draw attention to it.


"That" tends to be used the first time the object is referred to and "it" when it has already been mentioned. For instance if Person A saw Person B using a familiar looking Mont Blanc pen they might say

Is that my pen you've got there?

whereas if Person B finds a Mont Blanc pen they might say

I've found this pen on the desk

and Person A might reply

Is it my pen?

In the second case there is no need for A to define the pen as B has already done that by saying 'this': but in the first case A needs to define which pen is being referred to.


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