This is the logic I follow:

  • Nouns are replaced with ĝin

Mi ŝatas la filmon.

Mi ŝatas ĝin.

  • While tio replaces longer phrases.

Mi ŝatas, ke la filmo finiĝas feliĉe.

Mi ŝatas tion.

I see this most often as responses to questions. Here are some more examples:

Kiu faris la foton? Mi faris ĝin.

Kiu purigis la banĉambron? Mi faris tion.

Kiu planis la ekskurson? Mi planis ĝin.

Ĉu vi iros al la kinejo ĉi-vespere? Mi planas tion.

However, I've seen people use these interchangeably. Is my way of thinking wrong?

  • I left an answer below in which I basically confirm what you're thinking in your question. If there was something else you wanted to know or if my answer could be clearer, please leave a comment. – Tomaso Alexander Oct 20 '16 at 10:07

There is certainly a lot of overlap - but notice that in your examples, ĝin generally replaces nouns and noun phrases, while tion replaces verbs and phrases that include verbs.

  • Ah right! Noun phrases vs phrases with verbs. I was having trouble finding the correct way to name these categories. What do you mean with generally, are there exceptions? Is this a rule or an observation? Could you find a source that mentions/explains this? – Antonia Montaro Oct 20 '16 at 13:57
  • Let me see if I can find something formal. For now, I looked at the examples you chose, reflected on my experience, and took a (very quick) look around to see if anything contradicted that. – Tomaso Alexander Oct 20 '16 at 18:05

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