This vs. That: What's the Difference?
"This" refers to something near in place/time; "That" indicates more distance.
"This" is a demonstrative pronoun and adjective used to signify a person, thing, or idea that is near or present, physically or temporally, in relation to the speaker. Conversely, "That" is also a demonstrative pronoun and adjective, but it signifies something that is farther away in distance or time from the speaker's point of reference.
In a sentence, "This" often points to someone or something close to the speaker, either in terms of actual physical proximity or in a figurative sense, such as in the context of a discussion. "That," however, tends to refer to an object or subject that is removed, either because it's physically distant, in the past, or previously mentioned in conversation.
"This" is frequently used to introduce people or things in speech and writing, indicating a sense of immediacy or present moment relevance. "That" is often employed to refer back to someone or something already known to the listener or reader, or to indicate a preference or contrast.
"This" can also imply a sense of emotional closeness or personal involvement with the subject, suggesting a degree of empathy or emotional stake. "That," by being more distant, might imply less emotional involvement or a sense of objectivity or neutrality.
Both "This" and "That" are fundamental in English for clarifying, specifying, contrasting, and comparing. "This" aligns with subjects closer to the speaker’s perception, while "That" aligns with more distant ones.
Close in distance/time
Further in distance/time
Implies more emotional closeness or immediacy
Implies less emotional closeness, more neutrality
Usage in Speech
Introduces current discussion points
Refers back to previous points or contrasts
Stronger link with the present context
Weaker link, suggesting past or other context
Often indicates something physically near
Indicates something not currently near
This and That Definitions
Introduces a person or thing about to be mentioned.
This is John, my brother.
Refers to the person or thing farther away.
That is her car over there.
Refers to the person or thing nearest.
This is my house.
Used in statements expressing an opinion or assertion.
That is simply unacceptable.
Used to identify a specific person or thing close at hand.
Do you like this color?
Being the one singled out, implied, or understood
Indicates the present time or situation.
This is a great moment.
Being the one further removed or less obvious
That route is shorter than this one.
Used in statements expressing an opinion or assertion.
This is the best cake I’ve ever had.
To such an extent or degree
Is your problem that complicated?.
Being just mentioned or present in space, time, or thought
She left early this morning.
To a high degree; very
Didn't take what he said that seriously.
Being nearer or more immediate
This side and that side.
Used to introduce a noun clause that is usually the subject or object of a verb or a predicate nominative
"That contemporary American English is exuberantly vigorous is undeniable" (William Arrowsmith).
Being about to be stated or described
Just wait till you hear this story.
Used to introduce a subordinate clause stating a result, wish, purpose, reason, or cause
She hoped that he would arrive on time. He was saddened that she felt so little for him.
(Informal) Used as a substitute for the indefinite article
Looking for this book of recipes.
Used to introduce an anticipated subordinate clause following the expletive it occurring as subject of the verb
It is true that dental work is expensive.
To this extent; so
Never stayed out this late.
Used to introduce a subordinate clause modifying an adverb or adverbial expression
Will go anywhere that they are welcome.
The (thing) here used in indicating something or someone nearby.
This classroom is where I learned to read and write.
Used to introduce a subordinate clause that is joined to an adjective or noun as a complement
Was sure that she was right.
Persists in the belief that rates will rise soon.
The known (thing) used in indicating something or someone just mentioned.
They give the appearance of knowing what they're doing. It's this appearance that lets them get away with so much.
Used to introduce an elliptical exclamation of desire
Oh, that I were rich!.
The known (thing) used in indicating something or someone about to be mentioned.
When asked what he wanted for his birthday, he gave this reply: “[…]”
Introducing a clause which is the subject or object of a verb (such as one involving reported speech), or which is a complement to a previous statement.
He told me that the book is a good read.
I believe that it is true. — She is convinced that he is British.
That she will come is almost certain.
(informal) A known (thing) used in first mentioning a person or thing that the speaker does not think is known to the audience. Compare with "a certain ...".
I met this woman the other day who's allergic to wheat. I didn't even know that was possible!
There's just this nervous mannerism that Bob has with his hands, and it drives me crazy.
Introducing a subordinate clause expressing a reason or cause: because, in that.
Be glad that you have enough to eat.
(of a time reference) Designates the current or next instance.
It's cold this morning.
I plan to go to London this Friday.
(dated) Introducing a subordinate clause that expresses an aim, purpose, or goal ("final"), and usually contains the auxiliaries may, might, or should: so, so that.
To the degree or extent indicated.
I need this much water.
Do we need this many recommendations?
We've already come this far, we can't turn back now.
Introducing — especially, but not exclusively, with an antecedent like so or such — a subordinate clause expressing a result, consequence, or effect.
The noise was so loud that she woke up.
The problem was sufficiently important that it had to be addressed.
The thing, item, etc. being indicated.
This isn't the item that I ordered.
Introducing a premise or supposition for consideration: seeing as; inasmuch as; given that; as would appear from the fact that.
(philosophy) Something being indicated that is here; one of these.
Introducing a subordinate clause modifying an adverb.
Was John there? — Not that I saw.
How often did she visit him? — Twice that I saw.
(Internet slang) Indicates the speaker's strong approval or agreement with the previous material.
― I wish trolls could be banned from the forum immediately, without any discussion.
Introducing an exclamation expressing a desire or wish.
Oh that spring would come!
As a demonstrative pronoun, this denotes something that is present or near in place or time, or something just mentioned, or that is just about to be mentioned.
When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart.
But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched.
Introducing an exclamation expressing a strong emotion such as sadness or surprise.
As an adjective, this has the same demonstrative force as the pronoun, but is followed by a noun; as, this book; this way to town.
This way and that wavering sails they bend.
A body of this or that denomination is produced.
Their judgment in this we may not, and in that we need not, follow.
Consider the arguments which the author had to write this, or to design the other, before you arraign him.
Thy crimes . . . soon by this or this will end.
This twenty years have I been with thee..
I have not wept this years; but nowMy mother comes afresh into my eyes.
The (thing, person, idea, etc) indicated or understood from context, especially if more remote physically, temporally or mentally than one designated as "this", or if expressing distinction.
That book is a good read. This one isn't.
That battle was in 1450.
That cat of yours is evil.
(demonstrative) The thing, person, idea, quality, event, action, or time indicated or understood from context, especially if more remote geographically, temporally or mentally than one designated as "this", or if expressing distinction.
That's my car over there.
He went home, and after that I never saw him again.
The known (thing); used to refer to something just said.
They're getting divorced. What do you think about that?
(demonstrative) The aforementioned quality or proposition; used to emphatically affirm or deny a previous statement or question.
The water is so cold! — That it is.
Would you like another piece of cake? — That I would!
We think that you stole the tarts. — That I did not!
(relative) (plural that) Which, who; representing a subject, direct object, indirect object, or object of a preposition.
The CPR course that she took really came in handy.
The house that he lived in was old and dilapidated.
(colloquial) Used in place of relative adverbs such as where or when; often omitted.
The place that [= where or to which] I went last year
The last time that [= when] I went to Europe
Clipping of that is; used to reinforce the preceding assertion or statement.
That's proper funny, that.
(degree) To a given extent or degree.
"The ribbon was that thin." "I disagree, I say it was not that thin, it was thicker... or maybe thinner..."
(degree) To a great extent or degree; very, particularly in negative constructions.
I'm just not that sick.
I did the run last year, and it wasn't that difficult.
To such an extent; so. in positive constructions.
Ooh, I was that happy I nearly kissed her.
(philosophy) Something being indicated that is there; one of those.
As a demonstrative pronoun (pl. Those), that usually points out, or refers to, a person or thing previously mentioned, or supposed to be understood. That, as a demonstrative, may precede the noun to which it refers; as, that which he has said is true; those in the basket are good apples.
The early fame of Gratian was equal to that of the most celebrated princes.
That be far from thee, to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked.
And when Moses heard that, he was content.
I will know your business, Harry, that I will.
Two principles in human nature reign;Self-love, to urge, and Reason, to restrain;Nor this a good, nor that a bad we call.
If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that.
As an adjective, that has the same demonstrative force as the pronoun, but is followed by a noun.
It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
The woman was made whole from that hour.
Upon a day out riden knightes two . . . That one of them came home, that other not.
As a relative pronoun, that is equivalent to who or which, serving to point out, and make definite, a person or thing spoken of, or alluded to, before, and may be either singular or plural.
He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame.
A judgment that is equal and impartial must incline to the greater probabilities.
We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.
That I have done it is thyself to wite [blame].
The ship that somebody was sailing in.
I saw to-day a corpse yborn to churchThat now on Monday last I saw him wirche [work].
That that dieth, let it die; and that that is to cut off, let it be cut off.
As a conjunction, that retains much of its force as a demonstrative pronoun.
To introduce a clause employed as the object of the preceding verb, or as the subject or predicate nominative of a verb.
She tells them 't is a causeless fantasy,And childish error, that they are afraid.
I have shewed before, that a mere possibility to the contrary, can by no means hinder a thing from being highly credible.
As adverb: To such a degree; so; as, he was that frightened he could say nothing.
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,The man's the gowd [gold] for a'that.
To introduce, a reason or cause; - equivalent to for that, in that, for the reason that, because.
He does hear me;And that he does, I weep.
To introduce a purpose; - usually followed by may, or might, and frequently preceded by so, in order, to the end, etc.
These things I say, that ye might be saved.
To the end that he may prolong his days.
To introduce a consequence, result, or effect; - usually preceded by so or such, sometimes by that.
The birds their notes renew, and bleating herdsAttest their joy, that hill and valley rings.
He gazed so longThat both his eyes were dazzled.
So wept Duessa until eventide,That shining lamps in Jove's high course were lit.
Is not this the dayThat Hermia should give answer of her choice?
In an elliptical sentence to introduce a dependent sentence expressing a wish, or a cause of surprise, indignation, or the like.
Ha, cousin Silence, that thou hadst seen that that this knight and I have seen!
O God, that right should thus overcome might!
To try if that our own be ours or no.
When he had carried Rome and that we lookedFor no less spoil than glory.
Used to introduce a clause reporting something.
He said that he was tired.
Used to refer back to something previously mentioned.
I prefer this to that.
Indicates something known to the listener.
That day was unforgettable.
Does "That" imply emotional distance?
Often, it suggests less immediacy or empathy.
Can "This" refer to abstract concepts?
Yes, if they're current or under discussion.
Can "This" introduce a narrative?
Absolutely, it often starts stories or explanations.
Can "That" start a dependent clause?
Yes, it often introduces reported speech.
Does "This" require a listener's prior knowledge?
No, it can introduce new information.
Is "This" singular or plural?
It can be both, depending on the noun it refers to.
Can "That" be an adverb?
Rarely, but it can emphasize ("that" good).
Does "That" always follow a noun?
No, it can stand alone or introduce a clause.
Is "That" used for things physically far?
Yes, or separated contextually/in time.
Does "This" indicate closeness in relationships?
It can, by implying familiarity or immediacy.
Can "This" indicate emotional importance?
Yes, it can emphasize personal significance.
Is "That" formal or informal?
It's neutral, appropriate in any register.
Is "That" used in comparisons?
Frequently, especially contrasting with "this."
Can "This" refer to the current time?
Yes, like "this moment" or "this year."
Does "This" need visual presence?
Not always, but it often indicates something present.
Can "That" be plural?
Yes, "those" is the plural form.
Can "That" refer to the past?
Often, it's used for past events or situations.
Can "That" replace a subject or object?
Yes, it can stand for a person or thing mentioned before.
Is "This" used in questions?
Often, especially when indicating nearby options.
Can "This" be a demonstrative adjective?
Yes, like in "this book."
Written bySawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited bySumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.