Is it correctly used in the second sentence? Is it clear I am referring to Online advertising?

Online advertising is an ingenious marketing strategy. As time passes by, more and more brands appear to be using it to showcase their products.

My teacher said that it isn't correct because it refers back to time.

  • Ask your teacher for an explanation.
    – user3169
    Sep 19 at 3:50
  • 1
    @user3169 I don't think that the fact that someone has a teacher forbids them from asking questions here! I'll appreciate if you tell me whether there is any rules in that case or not.
    – a.toraby
    Sep 19 at 4:02
  • I didn't intend to mean you can't ask here, at all. But at the same time, it's a teacher's responsibility to explain the subject matter, not just say "This is the answer." Actually, I would be curious about the response, since the teacher is wrong.
    – user3169
    Sep 19 at 4:16
  • @user3169 Well, I am trying to get an IELTS and my teacher is an IELTS teacher, He is not native and non-native teachers sometimes just stick to a rule and do not grasp the idea behind that. He said that although my sentence can be understood, it is wrong in terms of pronoun usage.
    – a.toraby
    Sep 19 at 6:16

Pronoun reference is not really a matter of correctness. Some people seem to believe that a pronoun can refer only to the most recent noun phrase that matches in number, gender, and animacy (in the cases of he, she, and it). But this is a false belief, as the following examples illustrate:

  1. I can't fit the trombone into the suitcase because it is too small.
  2. I can't fit the trombone into the suitcase because it is too big.

In 1, we understand that it refers to the suitcase because we know that a trombone cannot be too small to fit into a container. Only the suitcase can be too small.

In 2 we understand that it refers to the trombone because we know that a suitcase cannot be too big to contain a trombone. Only the trombone can be too big.

(Tom Scott addresses all this in a fun video.)

The point is that position alone does not determine meaning or ambiguity. We understand pronoun reference as a matter of context as well as proximity.

Turning now to your sentence. Time is certainly available as a referent for it. They agree in number, gender, and animacy. But strategy is similarly available. The listener asks (unconsciously and with remarkable speed) whether time is a meaningful referent and if it is more meaningful than strategy.

I think a listener would have to be a fool to infer that it refers to time in this case. For one thing, it is hard to imagine how time can be used to showcase a product. For another, it is being used by brands, which extends the topic of the previous sentence (marketing) into the sentence in question.

To recap. It is wrong to believe that the nearest available referent must be the referent. Context and meaning play a strong role as well.

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