It / This

Refer back to something

Referring back to something
 

 

Referring back to a subject with emphasis

IT – REFERRING BACK

We use it to refer back to things or situations that have just been talked or written about.  It does not give any particular emphasis.

REFERS TO A NOUN (NP)

Apple is going to release a new operating systemIt will merge the laptop OS with the iPad and iPhone OS.   

(It refers to the new operating system.)

REFERS TO A SITUATION (CLAUSE)

Another employee has lost an iPhone prototype.  It set off an official search for the missing phone. 

(It refers to the situation in the sentence.)

THIS – REFERRING WITH EMPHASIS

We use this or that to refer to something with special emphasis – indicating an interesting new fact has been mentioned.

REFERS TO A NOUN (NP)

Apple is going to release a new operating systemThis will be a huge step in merging the laptop OS with the iPad and iPhone OS.   

(This emphasizes the preceding noun, operating system.)

REFERS TO A SITUATION (CLAUSE)

Another employee has lost an iPhone prototype. This set off an official search for the missing phone. 

(This emphasizes the situation.)

 

prototype (n.) – the first form that a new design of a car, machine etc has, or a model of it used to test the design before it is produced

NP – noun phrase, noun+modifier

(Swan 590) (Huddleston 1504)

 

 

 

 

 

 

It / This

Former / Latter

Imaginary car

 

 

 

Referring to an earlier or later mentioned topic

REFERS TO A FORMER TOPIC

We use it to refer to the main or the first mentioned topic of a discussion. The subject is usually a noun or noun phrase. 

REFERS TO THE FORMER (first) TOPIC

AppleCar wants to market its auto in the United States first.  It is the first tech company to do so. 

AppleCar wants to market its auto in the United States first.  It will be a limited release. (the car)

AppleCar plans a new venture in which it will produce cars with its lithium-ion batteries.  It will require a lot of capital.  

THIS – REFERRING TO A LATTER TOPIC

We use this or that to refer to a new topic, often the last thing mentioned. The reference could be a word, phrase or clause.

REFERS TO THE LATTER (last) TOPIC

AppleCar wants to market its auto in the United States firstThis will allow the product to be tested before introducing it to the international market.   

 

AppleCar plans a new venture in which it will produce cars with its patented technology.  This has upset the auto industry. 

 

topic (n.) – a subject of conversation or discussion
capital (n.) – money used to start a business
venture (n.) –  a new business activity that involves taking financial risks
patented (adj) – a legal document that gives you the right to make or sell a new invention or product that no one else is allowed to copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

It / This

Backward / Forward

 

 

 

Referring backward or forward

IT – REFERRING BACK

We use it to refer to a topic that has already been mentioned

REFERS BACK TO THE SUBJECT

Google will release Gaggle a social network for telling jokes.  It will be released soon.

The network has a lot of support among its users.  It will be available in over 30 languages.

THIS – INTRODUCING AHEAD

We can use this or that to introduce or prepare the listener or reader for a new topic, something we are about to mention.

INTRODUCES A SUBJECT

This is the best idea ever! Google will start a social network for telling jokes called Gaggle.
 

What do you think about thisGaggle will be available in over 30 languages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This / That

Distancing

 

 

 

This v. That – distancing

THIS / THESE

This refers to something that is near — physically (location) , temporally (time), emotionally (importance)— to us.  This expresses proximity (nearness) emphasis, or a favorable attitude about something.

NEAR LOCATION

I have the estimate in my hand.  This is what I need.

NEAR TIME

This is the first time. 

The class is this week.  I can attend this (the next) class.

NEAR MENTALLY OR EMOTIONALLY

I really like this woman. "favorable"

This idea is the best invention since sliced bread.

THAT / THOSE

We use that to refer to something that is far — time, location, mentally.   That – singular; Those – plural

FAR LOCATON

You have the estimate in your hand. That is what I need.  Please give it to me. 

FAR TIME

That was the last time. 

I can't attend that class. "distancing"

FAR MENTALLY OR EMOTIONALLY

President Clinton — "I did not have sex with that woman." "distancing"

I have never met that guy.

 

This – singular; These – plural;  determiner – This idea is great; noun – This is great idea.
Solution - lightbulb Pop-Q Deictics  and  Adjusting Deictic Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

Here is the answer to your question. 
*Thanks for it / this. (stressed position) 
*Thank you for it / this.     

   

This recipe sounds delicious. Will you please make me it.

*There are four seats. I am saving my family them.

I bought my friend it.

Did you buy my friend it?

I don't remember if I bought my friend it.

We do not use an unstressed pronoun it after an indirect object.

That who gets there first will win.   (That only refers to inanimate things.)

That which falls will be broken. 

SOLUTION

Thanks for the answer(Either use the full noun or change the wording so that It is in an unstressed position)
Did you thank him for it? (unstressed)
I can't remember if I thanked him for it.  (unstressed
Thank you for giving it / this to me(reworded)

As with *Buy me it → Buy it for me  we tend not to use it in a stressed position. (The verb thank is a bit unusual because the "receiver of the action" you is the direct object and the "thing received" follows in a prepositional phrase.)  See Buy v. Thank and Indirect Objects

Will you please make it for me.

I am saving them for my family.

I bought my friend a sandwich(Use the noun instead of the pronoun.)

I bought it for my friend(Indirect. obj. → prep. phrase)

Did you buy it for my friend?

The person who gets there first will win. / Those who get there first will win.   (Those can refer to animate or inanimate things.)

Those which fall will be broken.

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.
inanimate (adj.) – things items (non-living); animate (adj.) – living, people

 

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice

Major Blackout

Electrical network
 

 

 

Read the Context

power gridThe electrical network in the southwestern states was designed to prevent one local malfunction from causing a blackout for millions of people. __ was designed in the year 2000.

The electrical network in the southwestern states was designed to prevent one local malfunction from causing a blackout for millions of people. But __ didn't prevent the exact event from happening Thursday in San Diego, parts of Arizona, and Mexico's Baja peninsula.

__started when a piece of equipment was switched off at a substation in Yuma, Arizona along the border with Mexico

To make matters worse, the power fluctuation caused two reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power station to shut down. __cut off even more of San Diego's power supply. __happens whenever the computer system is trying to rebalance the load on the network

 

city blackoutThe chief operating officer of San Diego Gas & Electric Company said it is possible extreme heat in the region also may have caused some problems with the transmission lines.  __is possible because the temperatures in these areas were above 100º F (38º C).

A professor of electrical engineering at Washington State University, agrees that if the system was at full capacity because of high usage, __could have contributed to the problem.

Whether it was human error or some malfunction of equipment, we don't know. Usually in these cases, __ is a bit of both.

The power outage left over 5 million people in the dark. __was the largest one so far in the southwestern states.

In 1965, the Great Blackout in New York left over 30 million people in the dark. __ event is remembered for its baby-boom nine months later!

baby-boom – a sharp rise in the number of baby births

blackout – a break-down of the electrical system causing loss of electricity (and lights).

capacity (n.) – the amount a system can deal with or handle well

contribute to (v.) – add to; give to, make something happen

fluctuation – a change or variation in the amount of something

malfunction – a problem; a break-down

power outage – a period of time when there is no electricity supply

prevent – stop, avoid

transmission lines – electrical lines that carry the power

usage – the using or consumption of something

 

 

 

 

Use It or This /That to refer back to something.

  1. Select the word from each list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your responses to the feedback by clicking the "Check" or "Check 1-10" button.

 

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