Example 1

More and more people are discovering that Tai Chi is one of the most valuable forms of exercise. This has led to a big demand for classes. It will also promote the importance of physical health.

Example 2

For many traditional football supporters, it is a problem that so many young girls and women attend football matches these days. That is a sexist attitude of course. It has pissed off many people.

It, this and that in paragraphs https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/it-this-and-that-in-paragraphs

The Cambridge page says both "this" and "that" refer to the whole things.

Is it a rule that "this" or "that" has to be used first, and then "it" can be used?

This article says usually this or that first, but I don't know if this rule applies to more abstract structures such as referring to the whole setnence or paragraph like in Examples 1 and 2. https://englishhelponline.me/2017/05/31/the-difference-between-words-it-and-thisthat/

  • 2
    No. There is no rule about the sequence in which these words can be used.
    – Billy Kerr
    Dec 31, 2023 at 15:07
  • One of examples cited from Cambridge Dic. has this …It has pissed off many people…. Did you add this sentence yourself? Or did you find the original source? Because it's not in the CD excerpt.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 31, 2023 at 19:52

1 Answer 1


this can be either anaphoric (taking its meaning from, referring back to, something already mentioned) or cataphoric (referring to something that will be, is about to be, stated) ; that is anaphoric only.

Gravity causes the apple to fall to the ground. This we know to be true.

This we know to be true: gravity causes the apple to fall to the ground.

Gravity causes the apple to fall to the ground. That we know to be true.


That no we know to be true: gravity causes the apple to fall to the ground.

There are no such clear-cut rules regarding the sequence in which this and it may appear in a paragraph; it will depend on what you are saying, and how.

  • Sorry, I am a bit confused about your examples. I do not see how they are related to my questions.
    – vincentlin
    Dec 31, 2023 at 17:20
  • 1
    They are the only rules you need to worry about regarding this and that as pronouns. Your other concerns are imaginary. There is no "sequence" of appearance rule regarding it and either of them. You could reverse the order of your penultimate and ultimate sentences without any problem.
    – TimR
    Dec 31, 2023 at 17:23
  • I got it now. Sorry I am bad at retrieving implications. Thank you, mate.
    – vincentlin
    Dec 31, 2023 at 17:40
  • I will accept 50% of the blame. I often rely on others making the logical leap :-) In fact, it's one of the most pleasurable things to observe. Mental fireworks.
    – TimR
    Dec 31, 2023 at 17:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .