One of the most common questions we receive from English learners is: when and how to use this and that. And it makes sense that this question should be so common, as these two words are some of the most frequently used words in the English language.

First of all, let’s make sure we understand the main purpose of this and that. We generally use them to specify whether an object we’re talking about is close by or farther away in time or space. This indicates that the object is near, while that infers that the object is far from reach.
Although the two words have similar functions, they add different details and information to your speech. It may seem a little confusing, but don’t worry, we’re here to teach you all about how to use this and that.

4 ways to use “this”

In general, we use the word this to indicate or point out an object, person, idea, time, etc. that is right beside you or close to you. However, in English we can use it in many other contexts as well. Let’s check out a few of them:

To refer to something near you:

Is this your bike?
This laptop is mine, yours is over there.
Can you sign this form here for me?

To talk about the intensity or degree of a quality:

I’ve never seen him this angry before.
He’s never been this late for school.
I was this close to missing my flight.

Introducing people or identifying yourself on the phone

Hanna, this is my friend, Luke.
Hello, this is Jessica. Can I speak to Mrs. Brown, please?
Hey mom, this is Chloe, my new girlfriend

4 ways to use “that”

We most often use the word that to refer to someone or something that is farther away from you. But there are some other ways you can use the word “that”, let’s check them out:

To refer to someone or something is far from you:

Who is that boy over there talking to my sister?
How much is that hat?
I live in that house at the end of the street.

To link two related parts of a sentence:

Where is the shirt that you borrowed from me?
Is it true that he’s going back to London?
I didn’t know that she was married.

To talk about the intensity of a quality:

My grandpa is too old to work that much.
We should walk there, it’s not that far.
The movie wasn’t that funny.

To refer to a person, place, thing or idea that has already been mentioned:

We are talking about that day we went to the beach.
Las Vegas? That’s where my sister lives.
Do you remember that nice man who came to dinner?

How to remember the difference

The most important thing to remember about the difference between these two words is that when someone/something is right near you, use “this”, whereas when someone/something is separated from you by some distance or time, use “that”.

Additional uses

Remember that “distance” can also be measured in time. We can use “that” to refer to the past (time that is farther away) and “this” to refer to the present (time which is near), especially when used with the verb ‘be’:

That was a great party last night.
This is an awesome party. Are you having fun?

Sometimes, the difference between “this” and “that” is more subtle. We can use “this” to refer to something (like an idea or a suggestion) that you are about to say. And we can use “that” to refer to something that you have just mentioned:

Let’s go to the park. What do you think about that?
What do you think about this: we could go to the park.

It is not that hard, right? Now we’re sure that there won’t be any more confusion. We hope you enjoyed this article!
See you soon!