What is the Difference Between “These” and “Those”?
Thomas, one of our readers, asks, “What is the difference between “these” and “those”? Can they just be interchanged?”
In order to understand the difference between these two terms we need first to understand the difference between “this” and “that,” since “these” is the plural of “this” and “those” is the plural of “that.”
The most basic difference refers to the distance of the object to the speaker. You should use “this” when the object is close to the speaker, and “that” when it is away. For example:
This is my book. (a boy points to a book on his hand)
That is your book. (a boy points to a book close to his friend)
Similarly, if you the things are close to the speaker you should use “these,” and if they are away you should use “those.”
Notice that the time will also influence the usage of “this” and “that” as a demonstrative pronoun. If something happened in the past, the usage of “that” is more appropriate. For example:
He didn’t go to the school. That made me think.
If the event has not happened yet, on the other hand, “this” is the correct form. For example:
He won’t go to the school today. This is quite strange.
Finally, a bit of trivia. When Americans answer to the phone they often say “Who is this?”. While in the United Kingdom people will say “Who is that?”