This vs That: Difference and Comparison

Comparing “This” versus “That” depends heavily on context. “This” refers to something proximal or immediate, while “That” indicates something more distant or abstract. Deciding between them involves evaluating relevance, specificity, and temporal or spatial proximity to the subject at hand.

Key Takeaways

  1. “This” is a demonstrative pronoun used to point to something near the speaker, while “that” indicates something farther away.
  2. Depending on the context, “this” and “that” can function as pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs.
  3. When differentiating between two items, “this” refers to the item closer in proximity or more recent in time, while “that” designates the object further away or less contemporary.

This vs That

This refers to something close or present, while that refers to something farther away or not present. This is used for something specific or previously mentioned, while that is used more or for a new idea.

This vs That

Another way to look at it is when an object is within your visual range (where you can see it). The correct demonstrative pronoun to use in such an incidence is ‘this’ — however, when an object is far away (where you cannot see), the most appropriate demonstrative pronoun is ‘That.’

Comparison Table

ProximityRefers to something near the speaker or in the immediate context.Refers to something farther from the speaker or not in the immediate context.
Demonstrative“This” is a demonstrative pronoun used to indicate a specific person, thing, or idea that is nearby or recently mentioned.“That” is a demonstrative pronoun used to indicate a specific person, thing, or idea that is more distant or not as recently mentioned.
Singular vs. Plural“This” is used for both singular and plural nouns when they are nearby or in the immediate context.“That” is used for both singular and plural nouns when they are more distant or not in the immediate context.
Examples1. This book is interesting.1. That book on the shelf is mine.
2. Can I have this pen?2. I saw that movie last night.
3. This is a great place to eat.3. That restaurant has good reviews.
DemonstratingUsed to point out or draw attention to something nearby.Used to point out or refer to something more distant.
EmphasisOften used for emphasis or to highlight something in the speaker’s immediate surroundings.Often used to refer to something less emphasized or distant.
Temporal Reference“This” can also refer to the current time or moment.“That” can be used to refer to a specific time or moment in the past.
Discourse ContinuityUsed to continue a topic or discussion.Used to introduce a new topic or shift the focus of a discussion.
Demonstrating Options“This” can be used to present options when comparing two or more things that are nearby or in the speaker’s immediate context.“That” can be used to present options when comparing two or more things that are more distant or not in the immediate context.

When to Use This?

“This” is a demonstrative pronoun used to refer to something that is physically or conceptually close to the speaker or writer. It helps in specifying and emphasizing objects, ideas, or situations within the immediate context.

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Identifying Proximity

When using “this,” consider the physical or conceptual proximity of the object, idea, or situation you are referring to. It should be something that is easily identifiable or perceivable by the audience within the current context.

Providing Clarity and Emphasis

Utilize “this” to bring attention to a particular element in the conversation or text. It serves to highlight the importance or relevance of what you are referring to, making your communication more precise and impactful.

Offering Examples

For instance, in a conversation about a book, saying “This chapter discusses important themes” directs attention to the specific chapter being discussed. In a presentation, stating “This graph illustrates the trend” focuses on the graph being presented, enhancing clarity for the audience.

Avoiding Ambiguity

Ensure that the use of “this” is clear and unambiguous within the given context. Ambiguity can lead to confusion or misunderstanding, so provide sufficient context or clarification when necessary to ensure effective communication.


When to Use That?

“That” is a demonstrative pronoun used to refer to something that is physically or conceptually distant from the speaker or writer. It helps in pointing out specific objects, ideas, or situations that are not within immediate proximity.

Signifying Distance or Abstraction

Use “that” when referring to something that is not close to the speaker or writer, either physically or conceptually. It indicates a level of separation or distance from the current context, whether in space, time, or abstraction.

Providing Contrast or Continuation

Employ “that” to introduce a new idea or concept that contrasts with or continues from the previous discussion. It helps in maintaining coherence and flow within a conversation or written text by linking to previously mentioned topics or introducing new ones.

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Demonstrating Examples

For example, in a discussion about historical events, stating “That war occurred in the early 20th century” refers to a specific historical event that is not immediately present. In a narrative, saying “That feeling of nostalgia lingered throughout the story” refers to an abstract emotion that persists beyond the current scene.

Emphasizing Specificity

Utilize “that” to emphasize the specificity or particularity of the object, idea, or situation being referred to. It adds clarity and precision to communication by indicating a distinct entity or concept separate from others.

Avoiding Confusion

Ensure that the use of “that” is contextually appropriate and does not create confusion or ambiguity. Provide sufficient context or clarification when necessary to ensure that the intended meaning is clear to the audience or reader.


Main Differences Between ‘This’ and ‘That’

  • Proximity:
    • “This” refers to something closer to the speaker or within the immediate context.
    • “That” indicates something more distant, whether physically or conceptually.
  • Specificity:
    • “This” is used to emphasize something specific or relevant in the current context.
    • “That” can point to something specific but may also suggest a broader or more abstract concept.
  • Temporal or Spatial Reference:
    • “This” refers to something happening or present now, or to something physically close.
    • “That” refers to something in the past, future, or more distant, either in space or time.
  • Emphasis:
    • “This” emphasizes the immediacy or relevance of the object, idea, or situation being referred to.
    • “That” may emphasize the distinction or separation of the object, idea, or situation from the current context.
Difference Between This and That

Last Updated : 03 March, 2024

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48 thoughts on “This vs That: Difference and Comparison”

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  11. The detailed explanation and comparisons make it easier to discern the correct usage of ‘this’ and ‘that’ in various scenarios.

  12. ‘This’ and ‘that’ have a distinct influence on the discourse continuity and presenting options, making the language comprehensive.

  13. The detailed explanation of when to use ‘this’ and ‘that’ in different contexts provides valuable clarity to the language.

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  16. Great article! Clear and informative about the difference between this and that. It is also a useful tool for English learners who struggle with grammar. I loved how the article explained the different aspects, and then provided examples to illustrate their use.

  17. The emphasis and temporal reference usage of ‘this’ and ‘that’ are noteworthy in determining the relevance of the context.


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