He likes going to the library to study. That always makes her happy.

What if the last sentence were to be changed to

It always makes her happy.

Do these two sentences mean something different? It seems to me that "that" is referring to his attitude, and "it" refers to the act of studying.

What about this:

Her boyfriend likes playing with her dogs. That always makes her happy.


It always makes her happy.

Would "that" be reffering to her boyfriend's attitude towards her dogs, while "it" refers to the actual act of playing with them?

1 Answer 1


Past answer: deleted.

EDIT: Sorry for my mistake, I didn't notice it. My fault.

Reading it again, they both refer to the same thing but the first part instead, as in the fact that "he likes going there".

But your question was if "that" and "it" mean different things. They mean the same here, but the former is less ambiguous probably because it is a deixis.

"It" is still valid anyway, and in this case they are interchangeable.

Anyway, they refer to the predicate in the first sentence "he likes...", not to the action itself, because in that case, you'd say something different and more complex.

  • Why would it refer to the inner clause and not the outer? Apr 10, 2011 at 20:32
  • Ah wait. I didn't notice "HE" vs "HER". I'll edit the answer accordingly.
    – Alenanno
    Apr 10, 2011 at 20:36
  • What's the simplest way you could refer to the action itself? Why does it default to referring to one and not the other? Apr 10, 2011 at 20:44
  • "Her boyfriend likes playing with her dogs. The fact that he plays with them always makes her happy." I'd say something like this. In the first sentence, the "nucleus" is that he LIKES doing it, not simply that he does it, otherwise you'd say "Her boyfriend plays/is playing with her dogs. That always makes her happy."
    – Alenanno
    Apr 10, 2011 at 20:54
  • So when using "it" or "that" does it always refer to the outside clause by default? Apr 15, 2011 at 21:28

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