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It vs. This: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 19, 2023
"It" is a pronoun used to refer to a previously mentioned or easily identified object or experience, while "this" is a demonstrative pronoun used to specify a particular item or subject that is close at hand or being indicated or experienced.

Key Differences

"It" is often used to refer to an object, animal, or situation previously mentioned or known, often in a more general sense. In contrast, "this" is used to indicate a specific item or situation that is physically close to the speaker or in their immediate context.
"It" can be used as a subject or object in a sentence to replace a noun mentioned earlier, helping to avoid repetition. "This," however, is used to draw attention to something specific and is often accompanied by a gesture or a direct look.
In terms of distance or immediacy, "it" is neutral, not implying closeness or distance. "This," on the other hand, implies proximity, either physically or within a conversation or narrative.
"It" can be used for animals or things, and sometimes for babies or children when their gender is not specified or relevant. "This" is used to emphasize the thing being talked about, whether it's an object, a person, a situation, or even an idea.
"It" is also commonly used in impersonal constructions, like "it is raining," where "it" does not refer to anything specific. "This" is often used to introduce or highlight an idea, as in "This is what I mean," where it focuses attention on what follows.

Comparison Chart


General or previously mentioned
Specific and immediate

Usage in Sentences

As subject or object
To draw attention or introduce

Implied Proximity

Neutral (no proximity implied)
Close proximity

Typical Context

Animals, objects, general concepts
Objects, situations, ideas near speaker

Example in Impersonal Use

"It is cold outside."
"This is important to note."

It and This Definitions


"It" can act as a placeholder in sentences about time, distance, or weather.
It is 10 o'clock.


"This" can be used to refer to the present time or situation.
I can't believe this is happening.


"It" is used for animals when the gender is unknown or irrelevant.
I saw a dog today. It was very friendly.


"This" introduces subjects or topics in a conversation.
This is what I meant.


"It" refers to a previously mentioned object, animal, or idea.
The book is on the table. It is quite old.


"This" can indicate the closer or more immediate of two items.
This button turns on the light.


"It" can refer to a situation or experience.
It was fun at the park.


"This" is used to emphasize a particular point or item.
Look at this beautiful painting!


"It" is used in idiomatic expressions.
Take it easy.


"This" refers to something close to the speaker or currently being indicated.
This is my favorite book.


An animal that has been neutered
The cat is an it.


Being just mentioned or present in space, time, or thought
She left early this morning.


The third-person singular personal pronoun used to refer to an inanimate object, abstract entity, or non-human living thing.
Take this book and put it on the shelf.
Take each day as it comes.
I found a poor little cat. It seems to be half starving.


How does "this" differ from "that"?

"This" refers to something close to the speaker, while "that" refers to something farther away.

Can "it" be used for people?

"It" is generally used for objects and animals, but can be used for babies or when gender is unknown.

Can "this" be used to talk about the past?

"This" is typically used for the present or immediate context, not for past events.

Is "it" appropriate for formal writing?

Yes, "it" is suitable for both formal and informal contexts.

Is "it" used in questions?

Yes, "it" is frequently used in questions, like "Is it raining?"

Can "it" refer to a whole clause or idea?

Yes, "it" can refer to an entire situation or concept.

When should I use "it" in a sentence?

Use "it" to refer to a previously mentioned or known object, animal, or abstract idea.

Is "this" formal or informal?

"This" is neutral and can be used in both formal and informal settings.

Can "this" be plural?

Yes, "this" becomes "these" in plural form.

Can "it" be used to avoid repetition?

Yes, "it" is often used to avoid repeating a noun.

Is "it" gender-specific?

No, "it" is gender-neutral.

How does context affect the use of "this"?

The context of the conversation or situation greatly determines how "this" is used.

Can "it" be used as an object?

Yes, "it" can serve as both the subject and object in a sentence.

Is "this" only used for physical objects?

No, "this" can also refer to situations, ideas, or time periods.

How does "it" function in idiomatic expressions?

"It" often serves as a general subject in phrases like "it seems," "it goes," etc.

How do I use "this" in presentations?

Use "this" to introduce or refer to your current topic or visual aid.

Does "this" always need a noun after it?

No, "this" can stand alone or be followed by a noun.

How is "it" used in impersonal constructions?

"It" is used in expressions like "it is raining" or "it seems."

Can "this" be used for emphasis?

Yes, "this" is often used to emphasize a specific point or item.

Is "this" used in a specific tense?

"This" is not tied to a specific tense but is generally used for current or immediate reference.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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