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Does it mean "it could be better but is ok" (small disappointment), or "it really worked!" (surprise and content)? Depends on the context?

Also, is there a difference between "That did the job" and "It did the job"?

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You could use it either way - everything depends on the context, and your intonation when you say it. However, I'd say there's a slight bias toward "small disappointment" - especially if you preface it with "well": Q: I heard you ran out of deviled ham at your cocktail party, and served cat food instead. How did that work out for you? A: Well, it did the job... everybody went home.

As for the That/It distinction, you can use "That did the job!" in an enthusiastic, positive sense, whereas "It did the job" would sound odd except as the answer to a question, and (as I mentioned above) it would more likely be used to damn with faint praise.

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It's context-dependent.

Negative:

Bill: What do you drive?

Bob: An old Honda Civic. It's not pretty, but it gets the job done.

Positive:

Bill: Did you install the new software update?

Bob: Yes, and it did the job! The program no longer crashes!

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I would not necessarily talk about disappointment in the first case. Bob could just not care about looks and be content. I agree with you it's very context dependent. –  nico Jun 24 '11 at 7:16
    
@nico You're right. I've edited my answer. –  Maxpm Jun 24 '11 at 7:18
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I reckon they both mean the same thing:

It achieved the desired results

Example: "Smithy kicked the faucet really hard. That did the job, the water started flowing again."

They mean the same anywhere.

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