The question is not about how to use "this, that, it" with material objects, but how to use them with non-material ones? I don't understand (it, that, this) yet.

For example:

I go to a gym every day and I like (it, this, that?).

You helped me and (it, this, that) is very good.

Is there any rule about (again it, this, that?)?

Suggestions? Can I use "this, that, it" interchangeably in most situations?


2 Answers 2


I go to a gym every day and I like it.

I would understand "it" to refer to the object of the sentence - you like the gym.

I go to a gym every day and I like that.

I would understand "that" to refer to the whole phrase - you like going to the gym. Alternatively, it may mean that you like the fact that you go every day.

I go to a gym every day and I like this.

Awkward, as per Using "that" and "this" interchangeably

You helped me and it is very good.

Confusing: "it" here doesn't seem to be referring to any thing.

You helped me and this is very good.

Again, awkward.

You helped me and that is very good.

Meaning, the fact that you helped me is very good.

  • why are you using "would", "may"? Is this implying that, in fact, in can be said differently ("that", "it", "this") and you are not sure?
    – Alex
    Aug 15, 2013 at 23:41
  • No, I'm implying that I'm speculating about how I would tend to interpret these sentences generally - but they are somewhat ambiguous. Aug 16, 2013 at 1:14
  • Alright. Is there a precise, definite rule about using "this, that, it" with non-material objects?
    – Alex
    Aug 16, 2013 at 4:11
  • No. Read the answers from tchrist's links, e.g. english.stackexchange.com/a/4330/1236 Aug 16, 2013 at 5:44
  • I'm not sure why you mention "non-material" objects? Where did that come from? Aug 16, 2013 at 5:45

You can use the three interchangeably in certain cases but not all. In your examples, I would use the following:

I go to the gym every day and I like it.

I go to the gym every day and I really like that. This makes the sentence a little ambiguous as if there's something you want to point at, which is not the case in this example.

You helped me and it's kind of you. You helped me and that's kind of you.

I wouldn't really use this in this instance because that would make it less idiomatic.

  • so there is no rule about that except only a feeling of when to them?
    – Alex
    Aug 14, 2013 at 10:14
  • @Alex: There's but it wouldn't work in every case.
    – Noah
    Aug 14, 2013 at 11:50
  • 1
    @Alex As Kris has already said in a comment below your question, the 'rule' is the same whether the object is 'material' or 'non-material'.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 14, 2013 at 11:58

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