Avoiding repetition in a text

Avoiding repetition in a text

Do you know how to use words like this, that, such and so to avoid repetition in a text? Read the explanation to find out and do the interactive exercises to practise.

Look at these examples to see some different ways to avoid repetition in a text:

The composition of chimpanzee muscle was found to differ from that of humans, which explains their greater strength.

Featuring holes at an altitude of 2,895m, it is the only such golf course in the world.

Some birds can find their way without any landmarks, and we still don't know for sure how they do so.

Growing numbers of people are buying food that is grown without artificial chemicals. The popularity of organic produce is …

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar C1: Avoiding repetition in a text: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We commonly use words like it, this/these, that/those, such and do so, as well as synonyms, to avoid repetition. This can make a text shorter, easier to understand and more interesting.

It, this and that in texts

It, this/these and that/those can all be used to refer to something that has just been mentioned or that has been mentioned previously.

It is used to refer to something we are already talking or writing about, with no particular emphasis.

We watched the latest episode last night. It was OK, but not nearly as good as the previous ones.

This (or these) is more emphatic and often shows that something is new or interesting. This often signals that more is about to be said about the topic.

More funding has been approved for primary schools in the area. This does not, however, solve the problem faced by …

That (or those) is also more emphatic than it and is used in a similar way to this. However, that suggests greater distance. For example, we can use that to distance ourselves from a particular idea:

They're idiots! … OK, sorry, maybe that was unfair. 

A: I refuse to do this any more!
B: I understand you're upset, but I think that's going a bit too far. 

Or that/those can refer to an idea mentioned further back in the text:

A classic mistake inexperienced hikers make is to pack things they don't really need. Such items can include shoes, extra toiletries and electronics.

(two paragraphs later)Those extra kilos of weight are soon left behind as hikers learn to reduce what they carry to a minimum.

That/those is also chosen over this/these to suggest greater physical distance:

Scientists believe that some animals may use the Earth's magnetic fields to find their way from A to B, even if that B is thousands of miles away.

That and those meaning 'the one(s)'

In more formal English, that and those can be used to mean 'the one' or 'the ones'. They are often followed by of and are used in this way to avoid repetition.

We compared our experience to that of a group of teenagers. (that = the experience)

They obtained better exam results than those of the same year group in other schools.
(those = the exam results)

Those who means 'the people who'.

She was among those who voted for the policy.

Those who are unable to attend the event in person are invited to view it online.

Such meaning 'of this or that type'

In more formal English, such can be used to refer back to the type previously mentioned. 

Some species of ants can find their way using the memory of how many steps they have taken. 

Such navigation methods are actually fairly basic compared with others in the animal world. (such navigation methods = methods of that type)

We can use such in this way before a/an + single noun or before a plural or uncountable noun. It is often used after expressions like nothe only, the few, the first, etc.

The library is free and open to the public 24 hours a day. It is the only such library in the city.

The group will meet once a month to report on progress. The first such meeting will be held in April. 

Do so

Again, in more formal English, do so can be used to mean 'to behave in the way mentioned'. It is used to avoid repeating the verb.

Our company raised salaries, but few others in the sector did so.

Employees who have agreed to work overtime should be prepared to do so this month.

While some went vegan for the supposed health benefits, others reported doing so for ethical reasons.


A synonym is a word or phrase that has the same meaning as another word or phrase. We can use synonyms to avoid repetition.

Air pollution is a significant problem in many European capitals. Urgent action needs to be taken on this worrying issue.

Using synonyms can also make your writing more interesting and enjoyable.

Salmon use their sense of smell to travel back to the river where they were born. These aquatic homing missiles can travel hundreds of miles to return to their birthplace.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar C1: Avoiding repetition in a text: 2

Language level

Average: 4.3 (95 votes)

Submitted by Basheer Ahmed on Sun, 12/11/2023 - 16:29


Hello LearnEnglish Team,

I have two questions from the initial part of the lesson:

1) "this" and "it" are both pronouns. I am not able to understand the difference mentioned here: "this" is more emphatic, while "it" is not. Both refers back to something, then why is one considered general, while another shows something 'new or interesting'. How? Could you please clarify it further with more examples?

2) Everything about "that and those" is clear except the point that it suggests greater distance. As shown in the following examples with respect to distance oneself from a particular idea. How does this pattern work? I need more examples on this as well. Because in both the exercises I have corrected all the questions except those which are related to the concept I am confused in.

Thank you.

Hi Basheer Ahmed,

Thanks for your questions.

1) "This" is more emphatic because it indicates what the speaker is mainly focusing on (funding, in the example below). By using "this", the speaker shows that "funding" is a main idea of this part of the text or conversation. The speaker probably intends to keep talking about it as the text conversation continues. On the other hand, "it" is not so emphatic, and may indicate that "funding" is no longer the main topic, or the speaker wants to shift the focus to a new topic.

  • More funding has been approved for primary schools in the area. This does not, however, solve the problem faced by … (the speaker seems to want to continue talking about the funding)
  • More funding has been approved for primary schools in the area. It does not, however, solve the problem faced by … (the speaker seems to want to shift the focus to something else, e.g. "the problem")

2) The distance is a psychological distance from the speakers. "This" shows an idea that is still active or relevant, while "that" shows something that is less so. Since in the first example, the speaker seems to have changed his/her mind (about them being idiots), this change of mind is reflected by using "that", since the opinion ("They're idiots") is no longer active or relevant for the speaker: They're idiots! … OK, sorry, maybe that was unfair. If somebody says They're idiots! … OK, sorry, maybe this is unfair, it's a bit unusual because "this" suggests the speaker still holds that opinion (which isn't the case, in this example).

In the second example, I understand you're upset, but I think that's going a bit too far, the speaker probably uses "that" to show disapproval or rejection of A's actions. "That" suggests that A's actions out of the ordinary, or beyond what is reasonable (i.e., distant from the current situation). In contrast, we can use "this" to show acceptance (e.g. I like this teacher / This is a great idea) as opposed to rejection (I don't like that teacher / That is a terrible idea.)

I should point out that "this" and "that" don't always have these meanings. They have other meanings too, and somebody might say "I like that teacher" or "I don't like this teacher" for other reasons (when physically indicating the particular teacher, for example). 

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by ashiecajlenreese on Thu, 09/11/2023 - 03:26


good day, sir. I would like to ask you a question. I wanna write a sentence

'I don't know if this is supposedly a funny scene, but I found it (funny)"

I wanna avoid repetition in using "funny" in the second sentence. May i i know what word suits it best, sir?

Hello ashiecajlenreese,

I think you need 'supposed to be' rather than 'supposedly' in this context. As far as avoiding repetition of 'funny' goes, you could say 'amusing' or, if you want something stronger, 'hilarious'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khoshal on Thu, 12/10/2023 - 16:40


Hello teacher,

In the following example, why did they use are instead of is (Growing numbers of people are...)? As we have studied gerund subjects are considered singular nouns, they require singular verb forms (Subject-Verb Agreement).

Example: Growing numbers of people are buying food that is grown without artificial chemicals. The popularity of organic produce is …


Hi Khoshal,

Actually, "growing" is not a gerund in this sentence. As a gerund, it would be something like this: Growing is a part of life.

However, in the sentence you mentioned, "growing" is an adjective describing the noun phrase "numbers of people". Since "numbers" is a plural noun, the plural verb "are" is used.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Fyzalberg on Thu, 07/09/2023 - 02:48


Love these tests! It takes away some of my time in the office when there's nothing to do. Keep it coming!