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This and That

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Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question about the use of “this, that, these, those.”



Please, how should I use the pronouns “this, that, these, those” beyond the notion of near or far?

Thanks a lot,



Thank you for writing, Odilon. This is an excellent question!

We know that the words “this, that, these, those” have many meanings and uses in English.

One meaning of “this/these” is to note someone or something is near in physical distance. “That/those” can note someone or something that is far in physical distance. Here are two examples:

You can say, “This book is mine” while holding it in your hand.

And you can say, “That book is yours” while pointing at one on the table across the room.


Near and far can also demonstrate time. "This” can mean now or current, and “that” can mean before or earlier. For example,

The solar eclipse will not happen again this year.

The last supermoon came in September. At that time, the moon’s orbit brought it closer than usual to Earth.

In the first sentence, “this” notes the current year. In the second sentence, “that” refers to a time in the past.


We can also use “this/that” to show preference or a desirable choice. “This” can demonstrate a more desirable choice, and “that” can demonstrate a less desirable choice. Here are two examples:

This is my favorite restaurant.

That doesn’t sound very fun.

In the first sentence, “this” shows the restaurant is the best choice, and “that” in the second sentence demonstrates the idea is not a desirable one.

Focus, or attention

“This/these” also has an additional use. We can use “this/these” for focus, or attention, to establish new information. Using “this/these” can direct the reader’s or listener’s attention to important information. Here is an example.

And this is one major concern about the use of artificial intelligence: ownership.

“This” directs the reader to pay attention to the new information that is coming in the sentence. The important information in the sentence is a major concern. Ownership is the major concern.

Please let us know if this explanation has helped you, Odilon.

Do you have a question about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Gena Bennett.

Gena Bennett wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

notionn. idea or belief

eclipsen. an event in which the sun is blocked by the moon, or when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow