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In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), Dr Strange and Wanda speak about children:

Dr Strange: Wanda, your children aren't real. You created them using magic.

Wanda: That's what every mother does.

What does "does" refer to ? Does refer to Creating children using Magic?

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    That refers back to the previous assertion "you created them using magic" and it can be paraphrased in this instance as "what you say I did". What you say I did is what every mother does. Oct 24, 2023 at 11:44

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She means, "Every mother creates her children using magic."

It is common to use "do" to refer back to a verb or predicate that was used previously in the conversation, to avoid repetition.

Of course you can debate if Wanda is telling the truth, is lying, is using an analogy or has a misconception (pun not intended)

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  • (I think Wanda is saying that because she's mad, but all the suggested explanations are valid.)
    – Stuart F
    Oct 24, 2023 at 9:44
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    I think she's just being figurative or facetious. It's common to refer to childbirth as a "miracle", and the whole process of procreation seems kind of magical. So she's just blurring the boundary between the figurative magic of normal childbirth and the literal magic she employed.
    – Barmar
    Oct 25, 2023 at 15:36
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That's what every mother does implies :—

Every mother creates them (their children) using magic.

That replaced the phrase "creating their children using magic".

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Following from TimR's comment, verbs aren't typically said to refer to things; pronouns refer to things, and (as you've noticed by now) the pronoun here is "that." In this case, "that" refers to an action.

But so is "what." We need two subjects because we have two verbs. The outer verb phrase is in the form X is Y. Here, X is "that" and Y is "what every mother does." "That," as noted, refers to the action mentioned earlier, "creating children using magic."

"What every mother does" is a noun phrase also denoting an action, or perhaps a class of action. "What" refers to the action abstractly. It could be replaced with "the thing" or indeed "the action." The verb is last because it's a noun phrase rather than an independent clause. Compare "I eat food" and "the food I eat...[is]...."

So, we can rephrase by using "creating children using magic" instead of "that" and "the thing" instead of "what":

Creating children using magic is the thing that every mother does.

More idiomatically:

Creating children using magic is something that every mother does.

Or, more directly,

Every mother creates children using magic.

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