"When we analyzed all the news stories and removed just ONE STORY, here's how the world looked. What was THAT story? THE DEATH OF ANNA NICOLE SMITH. This story eclipsed every country except Iraq, and received 10 times the coverage of the IPCC report."

As I understand it, the pronoun THAT refers to the "one story" so it's used as an anaphora, and when I read the sentence I didn't actually expect that the author would explain about which story she is talking: it is just an example. But she goes on to say that THAT story is "the death of Anna Nicole Smith", so the pronoun THAT is also used as a cataphora as the author refers to the further information.

In the following examples I have the same problem:

One reason is that news networks have reduced the number of their foreign bureaus by half.

THAT is an anaphora - referring to the "one reason" or cataphora referring to the "news networks have reduced the number of their foreign bureaus by half"


Aside from one-person ABC mini-bureaus in Nairobi, New Delhi and Mumbai, there are no network news bureaus in all of Africa, India or South America -- places that are home to more than two billion people.

Here 'that' refers to the "Africa, India or South America -- places " - anaphora or "are home to more than two billion people" - cataphora.

  • Thanks for the question Alina...I learned something new today! (Can I go home now?) lol! Jan 4, 2016 at 22:13
  • (1) A cataphora refers to a referent that hasn't already been mentioned. (2) In the second example, you are confusing complementiser 'that' with determiner/pronoun 'that'. (3) In the third example, you are confusing relative pronoun 'that' with determiner/demonstrative pronoun 'that'. Jan 4, 2016 at 22:44

2 Answers 2


Your question shows that you are a critical thinker, unwilling to content yourself with superficial explanations. However, I believe cataphora is not what you think it is. Cataphora is uncommon in English (and in other languages I know). A typical instance of cataphora:

A typical amphora is this: an oblong, disposable vessel used for storing foodstuffs.

The reader cannot understand what this refers to until the 'postcedent' follows: it 'dangles in the air' until you read on. That is essential to cataphora. If you already know what the pronoun refers to by the time you read it, or if the reference doesn't become any clearer in the following sentence, then it isn't cataphoric. Notice how a colon has a very similar function: it indicates that you cannot properly understand the main clause without reading the explanation or enumeration after the colon.

I like those students who give me candy.

Here those clearly refers forward to who give me candy. Until you read the who clause, the word those hangs in the air.

In essence, there is a different between semantic reference and syntactic reference. In the first example you give, there is semantic reference, i.e. the pronoun that refers to the same entity in the real world as the death of... does. However, that isn't enough for there to be cataphora or any kind of syntactic reference. Consider this example:

The book Bridehead Revisited was written by Evelyn Waugh—a man, despite the feminine-sounding name.

The word man refers to the same entity in the real world as Evelyn Waugh. But that is semantic reference, not syntactic reference, and so it has nothing to do with anaphora or cataphora.

Your first example is a simple case of anaphora.

In your second example, that is a conjunction: it merely introduces a subordinate clause without having a specific reference itself. This use of that is probably a remnant of an older (possibly Proto-Indo-European) construction with an antecedent, as in one reason is [the fact] that..., he told me [the fact] that..., they ordained [the ordinance] that... In that older construction, it was anaphoric.

Your third that is a relative pronoun. Relative pronouns are (almost) always tied to antecedents. In this case, that specifically refers back to places, so it is anaphoric, as are almost all relative pronouns.

A case could be made that relative pronouns like what can be cataphoric. No explicit antecedent is in evidence:

What she told me is true.

Perhaps it could be argued that what she told me refers cataphorically to the (omitted) subject of the main clause, as in what she told me: [it] is true! But you'd have to investigate the origin of this construction.

  • 1
    Just FYI, on SE one can (and should) upvote answers one finds useful. But don't upvote answers you don't find useful, of course. Jan 4, 2016 at 23:59

I believe that is used to start an appositive clause here, and is therefore modifying the word places, and is therefore anaphoric.

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