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What is the Difference Between “These” and “Those”?

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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?”

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21 thoughts on “What is the Difference Between “These” and “Those”?”

  1. I’m afraid the comment about British people using ‘who is that’ is incorrect. I have never heard this, and I’m British! This article must have been written by an American……

    Don’t believe everything you read!

  2. UK โ€œwho is thatโ€ – As a British English speaker, it sounds a bit rude, and curt.

    And when asked on the phone – Is Roger there?, I get to answer “This is he.”

  3. i taught that,the word THESE,is a word used as a present word,why THOSE is a word used as a pass word.

  4. Which determiner to be used in the blank below, “these’ or ‘those’?

    There are two prominent limestone hills in Selangor. __________ hills are linked by underground passages.

  5. Haslim: I’d myself use these… But if I start to mention my experience with the hills itself, I’d use those. Let me explain:

    (showing you the scenery)These hills are linked by underground passages. (explaining you my opinion)Those hills gave me a lesson while I was exploring them.

  6. I never knew that is and this is can also b used for past tense and present tense respectively. Have learnt something new. Thanks

  7. To a Briton, the question โ€œWho is this?โ€ tends to suggest that the questioner wants the person they are asking to guess or see if they recognise the voice, rather than for the person asked to identify themselves.

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