This vs. That

'This' and 'that' are singular demonstratives. 'This' is used to point to a noun being close to us and 'that' is used to refer to something far from us.

"This" vs. "That" in the English Grammar

What Are 'This' and 'That'?

'This' and 'that' are called demonstratives. They can either be 'demonstrative determiners' or 'demonstrative pronouns'.

This as a Demonstrative Determiner

Physical and Temporal Closeness

'This' is used to point to a person or object which is close to us. This 'closeness' can be physical and temporal, i.e. it can be related to the physical position of the thing or object or it can refer to the nearness in time.

This bag is mine.

I have a date this evening.

'This' is used when we want to refer to time we are in now or a time in the near future.

Introducing Someone in Narration

In spoken English, when you are telling a story or telling somebody about something, you use 'this' to introduce a person or thing into a story.

There was this lanky bartender who was eyeing me.

This as a Demonstrative Pronoun

'This' is a pronoun used to identify someone or something which is near you or close to you or which is recently mentioned or supposed to be understood.

This is a very good choice.

I like this much better.

Introducing or Identifying Someone

'This' is also used for introducing someone to another or identifying someone or yourself, especially on the phone or at the door. Look at these examples:

This is Marjorie speaking. Is Alan there?

Sam, this is Will.

Differentiating between Two Things

If you want to distinguish items of a group of things or people, you can use this and that. They help differentiate between two things. For instance:

This is a 1998 painting. That is a modern copy of the same painting.

This bird lives in Hawaii. That bird is an arctic bird.

This as an Adverb

'This' can be used as an adverb to refer to the degree of something. It can mean 'so' or 'to this degree'.

The bear was this big.

That as a Demonstrative Determiner

'That' is used for referring to a person or thing not very close to the speaker or as near the speaker as another.

That cab is not going to pick us up.

How much is that watch?

When we've been talking about a specific time period, we use 'that' to show we are still talking about the same time frame.

That morning I went to pick up Ben from school.

'That morning' means that you are referring to an earlier period of the same day.

That as a Demonstrative Pronoun

Demonstrative pronouns substitute noun phrases. They 'demonstrate' which thing or person we are talking about. 'That' is used for referring to a person or thing that is not near the speaker.

That can use a little more color.

'That' is used for referring to something or somebody already mentioned or it is obvious to the speaker which thing they are talking about.

What is it left to talk about that?

That as an Adverb

Like 'this', 'that' can also be used as an adverb to refers to the degree of something.

It's not that simple.

That as a Relative Pronoun

'That' can be used as a relative pronoun to introduce a subordinate clause in a sentence, in order to mention something or to give the reason.

I love the dress that you gave me.

Who's the man that is standing over there?

3 Main Differences between 'This' and 'That'

  1. 'This' is used to indicate a person, thing, etc., which are close to you. But, 'that' indicates a person, thing, etc. which is at a distant place to you;
  2. 'This' can be used to refer to something just mentioned. 'That' refers to something previously mentioned;
  3. 'That' can be used as a Relative Pronoun to add a subordinate clause in a sentence. But, 'this' cannot be used as such.
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