"So next time a well-meaning friend offers to ‘speak to someone’, find out who that someone is." - This is from the next to the last paragraph on this site (which is written by New Zealanders, apparently): https://thepond.net/agents/angela-in...e-next-to-me-/

"Keywords can be powerful indicators of what someone is looking for, but keywords rarely explain who that someone is." - This is from an Adobe (software company) blog.

This might tell us what day someone visited the site, how long someone spent looking at the site, and what screens someone visited, but it does not tell us who that someone is." - This is from the privacy policy for a dental practice in Boulder, Colorado.

I don't know why use"that" is those sentence.But normally," I know who you are.I don't know who someone is" are correct

  • Replace "someone" by "person" then the sentence might be easier to understand: But keywords don't explain who that person is.
    – rogermue
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 16:36

2 Answers 2


It's confusing—especially to readers not altogether comfortable with idiomatic English—because the component words of "that someone" seem to operate at cross purposes to one another. On the one hand, "someone" is intentionally general and indeterminate in a way that, for example, "Freddy Simmons from Wembley" or "your next-door neighbor to the left" or "the girl on the Manchester Virgin Megastore check-out desk" obviously are not. But on the other hand (as Canis Lupus points out), "that" serves as a determiner to specify who the particular "someone" in question is. "That" functions here the same way it does in your examples of "that guy" and "that football," except that it modifies a pronoun (someone) instead of a noun.

The effect is a kind of partial precision—a narrowing down of "someone" to a particular someone, but without completely identifying who the particular someone is. For a native English speaker, expressions like "that special someone" or "that certain something" sound normal and unexceptionable. But we would never say "that him" or "that them" in a similarly determinative way, which suggests that we agree with you that, in many cases, a construction of that [as a determiner] + PRONOUN is fundamentally awkward. The pronouns somebody, someone, and something are exceptions to the rule, but the rule remains firm for most pronouns.


That is a determiner, which is a word used to clarify the noun (someone, in this case).

In your example that someone is more specific than someone. In this case, it's the same someone in the phrase speak to someone.

In the text you quoted, they are saying that, for any individual (someone), keywords can't be used to identify the specific individual (that someone).

  • you mean "that" is determiner such as "that guy ,that football". However," that someone " sounds awkward, doesn't it?
    – Caesats
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 3:20
  • 1
    It's not at all awkward. Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 3:23
  • But do you say “that he,that they..."
    – Caesats
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 4:08

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