View synonyms for that


[ that; unstressed thuht ]


, plural those.
  1. (used to indicate a person, thing, idea, state, event, time, remark, etc., as pointed out or present, mentioned before, supposed to be understood, or by way of emphasis):

    That is her mother. After that we saw each other.

  2. (used to indicate one of two or more persons, things, etc., already mentioned, referring to the one more remote in place, time, or thought; opposed to this ):

    This is my sister and that's my cousin.

  3. (used to indicate one of two or more persons, things, etc., already mentioned, implying a contrast or contradistinction; opposed to this ):

    This suit fits better than that.

  4. (used as the subject or object of a relative clause, especially one defining or restricting the antecedent, sometimes replaceable by who, whom, or which ):

    the horse that he bought.

  5. (used as the object of a preposition, with the preposition standing at the end of a relative clause):

    the farm that I spoke of.

  6. (used in various special or elliptical constructions):

    fool that he is.


, plural those.
  1. (used to indicate a person, place, thing, or degree as indicated, mentioned before, present, or as well-known or characteristic):

    That woman is her mother. Those little mannerisms of hers make me sick.

  2. (used to indicate the more remote in time, place, or thought of two persons, things, etc., already mentioned; opposed to this ):

    This room is his and that one is mine.

  3. (used to imply mere contradistinction; opposed to this ):

    not this house, but that one.


  1. (used with adjectives and adverbs of quantity or extent) to the extent or degree indicated:

    that much; The fish was that big.

  2. to a great extent or degree; very:

    It's not that important.

  3. Dialect. (used to modify an adjective or another adverb) to such an extent:

    He was that weak he could hardly stand.


  1. (used to introduce a subordinate clause as the subject or object of the principal verb or as the necessary complement to a statement made, or a clause expressing cause or reason, purpose or aim, result or consequence, etc.):

    I'm sure that you'll like it. That he will come is certain. Hold it up so that everyone can see it.

  2. (used elliptically to introduce an exclamation expressing desire, a wish, surprise, indignation, or other strong feeling):

    Oh, that I had never been born!


/ ðæt; ðət /


    1. used preceding a noun that has been mentioned at some time or is understood

      that idea of yours

    2. ( as pronoun )

      don't eat that

      that's what I mean

    1. used preceding a noun that denotes something more remote or removed

      that building over there is for sale

      that dress is cheaper than this one

    2. ( as pronoun ) Compare this

      that is John and this is his wife

      give me that

  1. used to refer to something that is familiar

    that old chap from across the street

  2. and that or and all that informal.
    everything connected with the subject mentioned

    he knows a lot about building and that

  3. at that
    completive-intensive additionally, all things considered, or nevertheless

    he's a pleasant fellow at that

    I might decide to go at that

  4. like that
    1. with ease; effortlessly

      he gave me the answer just like that

    2. of such a nature, character, etc

      he paid for all our tickets — he's like that

  5. that is
    1. to be precise
    2. in other words
    3. for example
  6. that's more like it
    that is better, an improvement, etc
  7. that's that
    there is no more to be done, discussed, etc
  8. with that or at that
    thereupon; having said or done that


  1. used to introduce a noun clause

    I believe that you'll come

  2. Alsoso thatin order that used to introduce a clause of purpose

    they fought that others might have peace

  3. used to introduce a clause of result

    he laughed so hard that he cried

  4. used to introduce a clause after an understood sentence expressing desire, indignation, or amazement

    oh, that I had never lived!


  1. used with adjectives or adverbs to reinforce the specification of a precise degree already mentioned

    go just that fast and you should be safe

  2. informal.
    Alsoall that usually used with a negative (intensifier)

    he wasn't that upset at the news

  3. dialect.

    the cat was that weak after the fight


  1. used to introduce a restrictive relative clause

    the book that we want

  2. used to introduce a clause with the verb to be to emphasize the extent to which the preceding noun is applicable

    genius that she is, she outwitted the computer

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Precise stylists maintain a distinction between that and which : that is used as a relative pronoun in restrictive clauses and which in nonrestrictive clauses. In the book that is on the table is mine, the clause that is on the table is used to distinguish one particular book (the one on the table) from another or others (which may be anywhere, but not on the table). In the book, which is on the table, is mine, the which clause is merely descriptive or incidental. The more formal the level of language, the more important it is to preserve the distinction between the two relative pronouns; but in informal or colloquial usage, the words are often used interchangeably

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Grammar Note

When that introduces a relative clause, the clause is usually restrictive; that is, essential to the complete meaning of the sentence because it restricts or specifies the noun or pronoun it modifies. In the sentence The keys that I lost last month have been found, it is clear that keys referred to are a particular set. Without the that clause, the sentence The keys have been found would be vague and probably puzzling. That is used to refer to animate and inanimate nouns and thus can substitute in most uses for who ( m ) and which: Many of the workers that (or who ) built the pyramids died while working. The negotiator made an offer that (or which ) was very attractive to the union. Experienced writers choose among these forms not only on the basis of grammar and the kind of noun referred to but also on the basis of sound of the sentence and their own personal preference. The relative pronoun that is sometimes omitted. Its omission as a subject is usually considered nonstandard, but the construction is heard occasionally even from educated speakers: A fellow ( that ) lives near here takes people rafting. Most often it is as an object that the relative pronoun is omitted. The omission almost always occurs when the dependent clause begins with a personal pronoun or a proper name: The mechanic ( that ) we take our car to is very competent. The films ( that ) Chaplin made have become classics. The omission of the relative pronoun as in the two preceding examples is standard in all varieties of speech and writing. The conjunction that, which introduces a noun clause, is, like the relative pronoun that, sometimes omitted, often after verbs of thinking, saying, believing, etc.: She said ( that ) they would come in separate cars. He dismissed the idea ( that ) he was being followed. As with the omission of the relative pronoun, the omission of the conjunction almost always occurs when the dependent clause begins with a personal pronoun or with a proper name. This omission of the conjunction that occurs most frequently in informal speech and writing, but it is a stylistic option often chosen in more formal speech and writing.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of that1

First recorded before 900; Middle English; Old English thæt (pronoun, adjective, adverb, and conjunction), originally, neuter of se “the”; cognate with Dutch dat, German das(s), Old Norse that, Greek tó, Sanskrit tad

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Word History and Origins

Origin of that1

Old English thæt; related to Old Frisian thet, Old Norse, Old Saxon that, Old High German daz, Greek to, Latin istud, Sanskrit tad

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. at that,
    1. in spite of something; nevertheless:

      Although perhaps too elaborate, it seemed like a good plan at that.

    2. in addition; besides:

      It was a long wait, and an exasperating one at that.

  2. that is, (by way of explanation, clarification, or an example); more accurately: Also that is to say.

    I read the book, that is, I read most of it.

    I believe his account of the story, that is to say, I have no reason to doubt it.

  3. that way, Informal. in love or very fond of (usually followed by about or for ):

    The star and the director are that way. I'm that way about coffee.

  4. that's that, Informal. there is no more to be said or done; that is finished:

    I'm not going, and that's that!

  5. with that, following that; thereupon:

    With that, he turned on his heel and fled.

More idioms and phrases containing that

  • all's well that ends well
  • all that
  • all that glitters is not gold
  • and all (that)
  • as far as that goes
  • at that point
  • at this (that) rate
  • at this (that) stage
  • be that as it may
  • bite the hand that feeds you
  • cross a (that) bridge
  • for that matter
  • game that two can play
  • how about that
  • how does that grab you
  • how's that
  • in order (that)
  • in that
  • is that a fact
  • it (that) figures
  • just like that
  • just the (that's the) ticket
  • last straw (that breaks)
  • like that
  • look like the cat that ate the canary
  • not all that
  • not built that way
  • now that
  • on condition that
  • on the chance (that)
  • powers that be
  • put that in your pipe
  • seeing that
  • ships that pass in the night
  • so that
  • suffice it to say that
  • tear (that tears) it
  • this and that
  • to that effect
  • when it comes to (that)
  • would that
  • you can say that again

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Example Sentences

I am tickled to see that has named me one of three finalists for best political prediction of 2012.

True, it can be fun to know that this-or-that athlete is Jewish.

Should you suggest something inspired or adventurous, many chefs will demur and revert to their been-there, drank-that pairing.

From Moscow to deepest Siberia, subversive artists are provoking the powers-that-be.

Is this year's Sundance sales frenzy a direct result of last year's little-movie-that-could?

"Buy something for your wife that-is-to-be," he said to his grand-nephew, as he handed him the folded paper.

And whilst I was stretched out that-a-way, Mace come clost and give me her hand.

"T-that's why," stuttered Cordelia, smiling through tear-wet eyes.

"You oughtn't to slip up an' s-startle a lady that-a-way," she said with grave rebuke, and Hale looked humbled.

For marriage is like life in this-that it is a field of battle, and not a bed of roses.


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That Vs. Which

What’s the difference between that and which?

That and which are used in very similar ways (especially to introduce clauses that refer back to an earlier part), but there is often a key difference.

Before we get into the grammar, let’s take a look at two similar sentences, one using that and one using which.

I wrote about my favorite movie that was released in 1994. 

I wrote about my favorite movie, which was released in 1994. 

Both sentences are about a movie. But there’s a difference in what’s being communicated.

In the first sentence (the one using that), the speaker is indicating that the movie they wrote about is their favorite movie released in 1994—not necessarily their favorite movie in general.

In the second sentence (the one using which), the speaker is saying that the movie is their favorite in general, while also mentioning that it was released in 1994. In this sentence, you could take away the part that starts with which and the sentence would retain the same basic meaning.

But that’s not true of the first sentence—taking away that was released in 1994 would alter the meaning of the sentence.

That’s because that was released in 1994 is what’s called a restrictive clause, which is a part of a sentence that provides essential information about the part before it. A restrictive clause can’t be removed without changing the essential meaning of the sentence.

The second sentence (the one using which), ends in a nonrestrictive clause, which provides nonessential information—information that can be removed without altering the main message of the sentence. Usually, nonrestrictive clauses are marked off by commas (or em dashes). Think of a nonrestrictive clause as an aside—additional information mentioned along the way.

This grammatical distinction between that and which is largely used in formal American English. In informal speech, it is very common to use that and which interchangeably. And sometimes the difference in what they convey is very subtle or practically nonexistent.

Still, when used in clauses like the ones in our examples, which is usually preceded by a comma, but that is not.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between that and which.

Quiz yourself on that vs. which!

Should that or which be used in the following sentence?

The cat ____ I saw yesterday has come back.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




Thasosthat ain't hay