One of the questions I get the most from students is the difference between this, that, these, and those. If you’re learning English, they can be tricky. These words are very common in English, so it’s important to know the difference.

This week we’ll be explaining the differences, so you can speak with confidence (security, sureness)!

What are This, That, These, and Those?

This, that, these, and those are demonstrative-we use them to “point to” people and things. This and that are singular, and these and those are plural.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Can you hand me that book?” as they point to a book over there (far away from them)?

They’re using a demonstrative pronoun. They are asking for a specific book, but it’s obvious by their pointing which book they are speaking about. (If they were asking for multiple books, they would say, “Can you hand me those books?”)

This, that, these, and those are used as determiners and as pronouns.

This, That, These, and Those as Determiners

There are two ways we use these words as determiners:

  • when pointing to things, and
  • as time phrases.

When pointing to things, we use this and that with singular and uncountable nouns.

For example:

  • We need to do this exercise next. (singular + uncountable)
  • Can you pour me some of that juice, please? (singular + uncountable)

As determiners, these and those are used with plural nouns.

For example:

  • These windows need to be cleaned. (these + plural noun)
  • Those books look really heavy. (those + plural noun)

In the examples above, there is also a sense of distance in relation to the speaker when using these and those. The objects mentioned are not close to you, but somewhere else in the room.

This as a Time Phrase

It is also possible to use this when describing time. Have you ever heard someone say, “Are we going to dinner this Thursday?” They were using this to describe a certain point in time that is close to us.

When we do this, we usually use words like afternoon, morning, Friday, month, week, or year with them.

For example:

  • I saw him this morning.
  • What are you doing this week?
  • Let’s go on vacation this year!

Why not give these (above, plural, close to us) two uses of these (plural, pronoun!) words a shot? Good luck!

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Write some examples in the comments below, and we’ll help you out if you need it. Make sure to come back to the Bespeaking blog for more, as we’ll be updating the blog with more uses of this, that, these, and those!

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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher,  yoga instructor, and hopes that this blog didn’t confuse you too much! You’ll get the hang of it (understand it) soon. 

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