Why didn't it/this/that occur to me sooner?

99bottles

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Those three pronouns confuse me. Can someone explain to me, for example in the sentence below, which I should use and why?

-Why don't you try formatting the hard disk?
-Good idea! Darn, why didn't it/this/that occur to me sooner?
 

Tarheel

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I would use "that' there, this:

Why didn't that (formatting the hard disk) occur to me sooner?
 

jutfrank

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Those These three pronouns confuse me.

-Why don't you try formatting the hard disk?
-Good idea! Darn, why didn't it/this/that occur to me sooner?

You probably mean that but the context is not very natural so I'd focus on a better example if I were you. Try this:

-Why don't you try formatting the hard disk?
-That's a good idea.


It should be easier now to see why you mean that.
 

99bottles

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You probably mean that but the context is not very natural so I'd focus on a better example if I were you. Try this:

-Why don't you try formatting the hard disk?
-That's a good idea.


It should be easier now to see why you mean that.
But I also want the second speaker to feel stupid and wonder why it/this/that didn't occur to him sooner.
 

jutfrank

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But I also want the second speaker to feel stupid and wonder why it/this/that didn't occur to him sooner.

Okay. Still, use that.

The rules for the choice of reference words are tremendously opaque. Nevertheless, I'm feeling brave enough to give you a dangerously oversimplified rule of thumb to follow: In dialogue, person B will refer to something person A has just said with that.
 

99bottles

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Okay. Still, use that.

The rules for the choice of reference words are tremendously opaque. Nevertheless, I'm feeling brave enough to give you a dangerously oversimplified rule of thumb to follow: In dialogue, person B will refer to something person A has just said with that.
So, if he was talking to himself, would it be this? (Wait, I know! I can try formatting the hard disk. Darn, why didn't this occur to me sooner?)
 

jutfrank

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It's more likely, yes.

I think you may have got the basic principle. It's similar in written English: we refer to one of our own ideas, say, in a directly previous sentence, with this, not that. Again, it's more complex than this, but it's a pretty good rule of thumb.

(Notice how I did exactly what I'm talking about in the final sentence above.)
 
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probus

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As an aside, apparently one of Darwin's associates, on being told about natural selection exclaimed "How stupid of me not to have thought of that!".
 
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