Suppose the following conversation:

A: Your son really has a car? But he's only 10 years old. That's a bit young, isn't it?

B: Oh, he's too young for a real car, but this isn't a real car. It's only a toy.*

What does the "That" refer to? (Which part is it a pronoun for?)

  1. 10 years old

  2. your son

  • It would be very strange to refer to the son as "that" in this conversation, because we use that to refer to things that are distant, like "Do you see the man crossing the campus over there? That's our security guard." but the son is not distant in this conversation.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 12:30
  • @stangdon Depends on the context: in That's my wife over there, "that" does refer to a person. But in the OP it doesn't work in the same way.
    – fev
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 12:42
  • @fev Right, but in your example, the wife is distant, and the topic. In the OP's sentence, the son is not the topic, distant or otherwise.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 12:58
  • @stangdon Yes, exactly. In my example "that" is more emphatically deictic.
    – fev
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 12:59
  • @stangdon: As fev says, that here refers to [being] 10 years old, not your son or he. The usage might potentially be a bit confusing, but idiomatically it's so common I think learners have no choice but to take this usage on board. Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


That refers to 10 years old. You can read you sentence as:

That [age] is a bit young.


That (meaning 10 years old) is a bit young.

  • Thank you so much, fev
    – reza
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 8:51
  • You can say "he's a bit young", but that would be more of a personal comment about the boy; "that's a bit young" implies it is a bit young for anybody or in general.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 10:28

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