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subhajit123 posted:

Hi there, which one is more correct in the following context: 'it' or 'this' ?

1- John‚ have you heard that the government has decided to cut fifty four thousand trees for a new project? Is it/this right? What do you think?

Hi, Subhajit,

The sentence will be ambiguous no matter which one you choose. It's unclear whether the sentence is supposed to mean "Is that correct?" -- i.e., "Is the information I have given you correct?" -- or "Is this an ethically condonable course of action?"

I presume it is supposed to have the latter meaning, because (assuming "What do you think?" belongs to the example and is not your/Subhajit's question to us) the speaker is asking for the listener's opinion. I recommend changing the question so that both "it" and "this" are used:

1a-John‚ have you heard that the government has decided to cut down fifty-four thousand trees for a new project? Is it right for them to do this? What do you think?

Please note that there is a hyphen in "fifty-four thousand." I have also added "down" after "cut" for additional clarity.

It, this and that in paragraphs - English Grammar Today - Cambridge Dictionary this site says that both it and this can be used to refer back whole sentences and clauses. This highlights the information referred to much more strongly than it.

So here is a sentence from the above site, which is written using this. Can I also use It there?

More and more people are discovering that Tai Chi is one of the most valuable forms of exercise. This/it has led to a big demand for classes.

If it is right then why can't I use it in my sentence 'The government has decided to plant one million trees in the city. It/this will improve the air quality in the environment.'?

The problem with using "it" to refer back to the proposition expressed by the entire independent clause "The government has decided to plant one million trees in the city" is not that "it" is, in itself, grammatically incapable of doing so, but rather that "it" will likely miscue some readers into thinking that there is a noun-phrase referent rather than a clausal referent.

It would be easy for readers to interpret "it" as referring to "the government," for example, which is the subject of the preceding sentence: "It [=the government] will improve the air quality in the environment." Since you don't want readers to interpret the sentence that way, and since "this" (or "that") guards against that interpretation, it is better to use "this" (or "that") rather than "it."

You are mistaken if you think the Web-page to which you have linked is encouraging learners to use "it" to refer to the propositional content of a preceding independent clause. The Cambridge dictionary merely has not denied that it is possible for "it" to do so, but neither have I. I have responded to your questions in reference to the examples you have provided.

Here are two cases where "it" comfortably refers to propositional content:

2-He smokes a lot. It is something his mother worries about.
3-He smokes a lot. His mother worries about it.

Last edited by David, Moderator

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