pronouns: this, that, these and those

Why do we use this and these?

We use this (singular) and these (plural) as pronouns:

- to talk about people or things near us:

This is a nice cup of tea.
Whose shoes are these?

- to introduce people:

This is Janet.
These are my friends, John and Michael.

We don’t say These are John and Michael.
We say This is John and this is Michael.

- to introduce ourselves to begin a conversation on the phone:

Hello, this is David, Can I speak to Sally?

Why do we use that and those?

We use that (singular) and those (plural):

- to talk about things that are not near us:

What’s that?
This is our house, and that’s Rebecca’s house over there.
Those are very expensive shoes.

- We also use that to refer back to something someone said or did:

  • - Shall we go to the cinema?
    - Yes, that’s a good idea.
  • - I’ve got a new job.
    - That’s great.
  • - I’m very tired.
    - Why is that?

this, these, that, those with nouns

We also use this, these, that and those with nouns to show proximity

We use this and these for people or things near us:

We have lived in this house for twenty years.
Have you read all of these books?

… and that and those for people or things that are not near us:

Who lives in that house?
Who are those people?




In formal writing, is there a difference between this and that, or these and those?
Which of the following should I use in a formal situation?

I have a house. This property was bought twenty years ago.
I have a house. That property was bought twenty years ago.
I have a house. The property was bought twenty years ago.

Hello TheMouseofAfterTomorrow,

The meanings of determiners such as this/these and that/those do not change with the formality of the context. Generally, we use that/these (singular/plural) to refer to something which we consider closer to us in some way (physical distance, emotional distance and distance in time) and we use that/those to refer to something which is more distant.

If we are not trying to distinguish one house from another then we use the once it has been introduced, so 'the' would be appropriate in your example.

If we have two houses and we want to distinguish between them then we can use this and that:

I own two houses on this street. This one I inherited from my parents and that one across the road I bought two years ago.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you.

Hey I have a questions.

So if I am referring to a situation that happened int he past. Which one do I use?

7th of February, the laboratory. These are the date and location of...

7th of February, the laboratory. Those were the data and location of....

Hello lolopopo,

You can use both 'this' or 'that' to refer back to something you just mentioned, with no difference in meaning. We tend to use 'this' more than 'that' when we have more to say about the matter, however. If your sentence merely explains the date and location of an event, then 'those' could be appropriate, but I would probably recommend 'these'. And if you go on to explain even more, then 'these' would also probably be better.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

A question. Is it right to write: Who lives in those house? & Who are that people?(Meaning who those people are)??

Hello Andrea Smith,

No, those are not correct. We use 'that' with singular nouns and 'those' with plural nouns. The correct forms would therefore be as follows:

Who lives in those houses? or Who lives in that house?

Who are those people? or Who is that person?


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


Could in the clause 'that things are' 'that' be a determiner or it is a conjunction? The original statement is 'I can nevertheless know quite a lot about how it appears to me that things are.'

Hello kanka

Strictly speaking, 'that' here is a complementiser, which is a kind of subordinating conjunction. It introduces the complement of the verb 'appear'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I have a question. This page says you can use "this" to introduce ourselves on the phone. On another page, "it" can alse serve as the same purpose. So, what's the difference? Thanks in advance.