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Do you know when to use the English words ‘this’ or ‘that’ correctly? If you don’t, you have come to the right place, because our topic today is the correct use of these words.
‘This’ and ‘that’ are words that fall into the category of words called demonstratives. Demonstratives are words used to indicate something (i.e. a noun) that is being talked about (without using the thing’s name) while at the same time giving some information about the thing’s location. Demonstratives indicate distance or proximity of an object to the speaker or listener.
‘This’ and ‘that’ are also categorized as either pronouns or adjectives – depending on the usage of the word. When ‘this’ or ‘that’ are used as pronouns they stand in place of a noun, usually a thing or a place. (It is best to use pronouns like ‘he’ or ‘she’ when refer to people rather than to use ‘this’ or ‘that’.) When ‘this’ or ‘that’ are used as adjectives they are being used to describe a noun, by giving more information about the location of the noun.
Now, that you know how these words can be used, you might be asking yourself, ‘so what is the difference between them anyway?’ The difference is all related to distance. ‘This’ is used to talk about objects that are near and ‘that’ is used to talk about objects which are away or far from the speaker/listener.
this = near
that = away or far
Another way to say this is:
this = here
that = over there
How will you decide what is near or far, here or there? A good rule to keep in mind is that if something is within your arm’s reach (i.e. you can reach out and touch it) you should use ‘this.’ If something is outside your arm’s reach or something that you would need to have passed to you, then you should ‘that.’
There are also often additional words used to indicate distance or relative distance when using the words ‘this’ and ‘that.’ For example:
This card right here is the one I like the best.
That house over there is where Jamal lives.
In these examples the words “right here” and “over there” emphasize the distance of the object to the speaker. These words of emphasis are often used to make it clear what object or thing a person is talking about, but they are not always necessary. Often English speakers also point to the object they are talking about when using ‘this’ or ‘that’ to make it even clearer what object they are talking about.
The words ‘this’ and ‘that’ also have plural forms you should be aware of.
this –> these
that –> those
The plural forms of these words are used in the same contexts as the singular forms.
Now, try your hand at figuring out which word to use (‘this’ or ‘that’) in the following sentences. Try to use the contextual clues in the sentence to help you make your choice.
1) I had just picked up ___________ book from the table next to me when Pam walked in the room.
2) Kay sent me ___________ picture over there for my birthday.
3) ____________ kite up there is really high in the sky.
4) I want to eat _____________ muffin, can you pass it to me?
5) ___________ here pen is my favorite pen. I’d be very sad if I lost it.
I hope this lesson was beneficial to you – scroll down for the answers.
Answers: 1) this; 2) that; 3) that; 4) that; 5) this