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that/it

Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:51 am
by navi
1) You can help end poverty if you want it.
2) You can help end poverty if you want that.

3) You can play a part in ending poverty if you want it.
4) You can play a part in ending poverty if you want that.

Does replacing 'it' with 'that' change anything?

Do 'it' and 'that' refer to your helping to end poverty or to ending poverty?

Gratefully,
Navi

Re: that/it

Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2019 4:00 pm
by Erik_Kowal
None of those variants with 'it' or 'that' sounds natural: native speakers of English would almost always leave it out. The only circumstance I can think of where you might include 'that' is to make a sarcastic point about how stupid or undesirable you think the activity is, e.g.

"You can play a part in ending poverty, if you WANT that". [The comma is optional]

Another (and more natural-sounding) way to inject a similarly sarcastic effect would be to end the sentence with "if that's what you want", e.g.

"You can play a part in ending poverty, if THAT'S what you want!"

However, even this sounds peculiar, because introducing the notion of doing something with "You can play a part in..." would generally be regarded by the audience as an invitation or statement of encouragement to perform the action that is about to be mentioned.

Otherwise, where no sarcasm is intended the sentences should be formed thus:

1a & 2a) You can help [to] end poverty if you want.

3a & 4a) You can play a part in ending poverty if you want.

Re: that/it

Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:06 pm
by Phil White
Another idiomatic alternative would be "... if you want to."

This is also somewhat dismissive or patronizing.