1)The climate of Busan is milder than that of Seoul

2)The climate of Busan is milder than it of Seoul

I know that #1 is right. But I wonder why we don't use a demonstrative pronoun "it", a pronoun which usually refers to something already mentioned in a sentence or piece of text.

  • We do not use the pronoun "that" here. We use the determiner "that" here. And that's because we have to use a determiner there, not a pronoun. "It" is only a pronoun, and cannot be used as a determiner.
    – RegDwigнt
    Sep 8, 2015 at 11:46
  • Maybe give this page a read. Sep 8, 2015 at 12:21
  • Aaargh. Sorry @CandiedOrange, I meant Reg! Sep 8, 2015 at 12:53
  • @CandiedOrange Although I have some sympathy with RD's analysis, ICE doesn't agree with him - at all. They say, very clearly, "As this table shows, determiners always come before a noun, but pronouns are more independent than this. They function in much the same way as nouns, and they can be replaced by nouns in the sentences above" Sep 8, 2015 at 12:59
  • @CandiedOrange I'm waiting on ternterhooks! Sep 8, 2015 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


Contrary to the common belief, a pronoun can replace a whole noun phrase, instead of a noun.

And that is why the following phrase is incorrect -

A new shirt (a noun phrase, with shirt it's head) -> A new it (Incorrect)

In your sentence we need something to replace the climate in the climate of Seoul. The noun phrase is the climate of Seoul. We can use a pronoun to replace the total noun phrase, but not a noun inside a noun phrase. So to solve this problem we need to use another class of words. We call them Pro-form.

The word that can be used as a Pro-form here, but the word it can't. That's why it's incorrect to say - it of Seoul.

The only correct version is that of Seoul.

The climate of Busan is milder than that of Seoul

  • Just a note that some people classify the normal pronouns as a subtype of pro-forms (e.g. the Wikipedia entry on pro-forms). By doing this, though, they lose out on the distinction made by @Man_From_India between those (like 'that') that can be used sub-phrasally and those which cannot (like the normal pronoun 'it').
    – DyingIsFun
    Sep 9, 2015 at 16:10
  • @Silenus There is no doubt that they do. A noun phrase can have more than one word, or just a single word. If they are the single word, it's none other than the head noun. In these cases both Pro-form and pronoun are the same. Pro-form is not restricted to nouns only, they can replace other class of words too. Sep 9, 2015 at 16:16
  • Hi @Man_From_India, I wasn't disagreeing with anything you said in your post. Only pointing out that you seem to suggest that pronouns are not pro-forms (which runs against some syntactic classifications, like the one on Wikipedia). I guess the problem is with your sentence: "The word 'that' can be used as a Pro-form, but the word 'it' can't." If I understand how you're using "pro-form", you might consider changing it to "The word 'that' can be used as a pro-form HERE, but the word 'it' can't."
    – DyingIsFun
    Sep 9, 2015 at 16:21
  • @Silenus Oh thanks :-) I will edit my answer for more clarity. I didn't mean to say that pronouns are not pro-forms. I will edit it. Sep 9, 2015 at 16:23
  • @Man_From_India But how about "We of the National Union of Teachers do not believe that ...", for example? May 8, 2016 at 19:22

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