This or that?
There are many different ways of using “this” and “that”. Both words are often used in similar contexts but in different ways. In this article, we will explore the various applications of “this” and “that”
We use “this” to refer to people, things, situations and experiences that are more close to the speaker or very close in time. “This is paired with single or uncountable nouns.
We use “that” to refer to people and things, situations and experiences that are more distant to the speaker, either physically or in time. They are often paired with single or uncountable nouns.
Determiner (People or Things)
Structure: This + noun
- This shoe is red in colour. (I might be holding the shoe)
- This man next to me is really good looking. (He might just be beside me)
Structure: That + noun
- That guitar is fantastic but expensive. (That guitar is quite far away from me)
- That man standing at the door looks like a thief. (That man is not near me)
- This holiday is awesome (Suggests that you are still having a holiday and you make this remark)
- That holiday was fantastic (Suggests that the holiday has finished and you make this remark)
- “This” is my first attempt vs “That” was my last attempt.
- I will see you this evening. (Suggest time is near e.g going to happen soon)
- Remember that evening when we met for drinks. (Suggest time is far e.g quite some time in the past)
Mentally / Emotionally
This category can be rather complex. However, if we stick to the concept of “this” (near) and “that” (far), it should be easy.
- I really like this girl in my class. (A positive and favourable emotion. It seems I want to get “nearer” to this girl.)
- I did not have an affair with that woman. (Suggests “distancing”. I want to have nothing to do with that woman. )
Introducing a new topic
We use this to refer to a new topic. The reference topic could be a word, phrase or clause.
- This fall, there will be a myriad of new TV dramas debuting on the CW network.
- The mugger suddenly pulled out this big knife and wielded it at me.
Relating to something that has recently been mentioned
- Facebook has recently introduced a new video call function. This function will enable Facebook users to communicate with their friends and loved ones.
We often use “that” to refer to shared knowledge when telling a story or explaining something:
- You know that old barber on the corner? Well, they’re going to close down temporarily for renovation.
- 4 employees were asked to leave this week. This might set off an unprecedented number of terminations.
- 4 employees were asked to leave last month. That might have set off an unprecedented number of terminations.
4 employees were asked to leave “This”/”That” is the situation.
I leave you now with this dialogue. Try to figure out the different uses of “this” and “that”.
Ivan: Could you give me that book on the table over there?
Sergio: Do you mean this book here?
Ivan: Yes, that book.
Sergio: Here you are. Oh, could you give me that magazine too on the table over there?
Ivan: This one? Sure, here you are.
Ivan: Hey Sergio, do you know who this actress is on the magazine cover?
Sergio: No, I do not know who that actress is.
Ivan: Do you remember that actress who acted in the movie “Miss Congeniality”?
Sergio: Oh yes! That is Sandra Bullock.
Ivan: I met her face to face before and took a picture with her. That was one of the happiest days of my life.
Sergio: Good for you. I am going to meet my nephew now. I see you this evening?
Ivan: Sure thing.