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Level: beginner

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.

Be careful!

We say, This is John and this is Michael. (NOT These are John and Michael.)

  • to begin a conversation on the phone:

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

that and those

We use that (singular) and those (plural) as pronouns to talk about things that are not near us:

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



We also use that to reply to something someone has said:

'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?'

Replies with that's 1


Replies with that's 2


With nouns

We can also use this, these, that and those with nouns. 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?

Demonstratives with nouns




I would like to know if "this that" can appear next to each other in a sentence.
e.g.  It will also explain this that there is no conflict between spirituality and science. 
in this sentence is 'this' needed to emphasize or not. if they can appear together, then should there be a comma between the two?
thank you for your advice. 

Hi nidhinice,

That sentence does not look very natural to me, I'm afraid.  We can use 'this' as a reference device, to introduce (and emphasise) an idea which follows it.  It's a rhetorical device common in speeches.  For example:

'This, I say to you: we shall be victorious!'

This kind of forward reference is called 'cataphoric reference'.

Your sentence is a version of this.  However, in English we do not put 'this' and 'that' together in this way as it can be confusing.  To do this, you need to add some punctuation (and, in speaking, an appropriate pause).  For example:

'It will also explain this: that there is no conflict between...'

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

yes, it does clarify things. 
thank you.

Hi sir this is Torab Khan i am new to the site it is very useful and i will learn more from this site. but i am not good as much as required in the English language in this regard i want your help how to improve my English in Speaking Reading and Writing.


Hi Torab Khan,

Welcome to LearnEnglish! You've certainly come to the right place to improve your English, as there are loads of resources here that can help you do just that.

I'd recommend that you first browse our site - there are lots of different areas that could be useful to you, so you should try different areas and see what helps you the most. For example, our Magazine, Stories & Poems and Talk About sections are full of texts that you can read and then comment on; some also have exercises that can help you see how well you've understood the text. Many of our users get hooked on the Elementary Podcasts - although these are primarily meant to be listened to, they all have transcripts that you can read, and most have a lot of exercises to help you check your comprehension and the grammar and vocabulary discussed in them. And whenever there's a grammar point that you're not sure about, check our Grammar pages - you can probably find the answers to your questions there.

Finally, you should comment and ask questions in our comments sections whenever you'd like to - as other users will surely say, you can really learn a lot this way.

Good luck and please let us know how it goes.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir/Madam,
I am extremely poor in using pronouns like this, that , these , those.

I understand that we can use "this" when we referring things near to us , but the problem is that I do not know how to use these pronouns in a paragraph.

For example , Children who behave badly in classrooms should be handed fines. This behaviour cannot be tolerated as it will make them defiant. They will become good citizen after they get penalised by their teachers. They will also respect their parents so that punishment can yield positive results.

In this example - The writer used ' this behaviour ' in the beginning of the second sentence. Is it a correct usage of 'this' and why didn't the writer use 'that' instead of 'this' ?
Secondly, after the word teachers , the writer used ' they ' . Now this pronoun is referring teachers or students and Why ?
Thirdly , in the last sentence, the writer used ' that penalty' . Why did he use 'that' there instead of ' this' ? I do not know because I am useless in the usage of pronouns and determiners or demonstratives, so please HELP ! HELP! HELP !

I am quite confused about these referents as it is a hectic subject for me .

Please help and kindly provide some detail explanation so that English learners like me can learn it .

With kind regards,

Hello Leon,

That's a lot of questions!  Let me take them in order:


1/ One of the differences between 'this'/'these' and 'that'/'those' is distance - physical distance, psychological distance and textual distance.  In the paragraph you quote, the writer has just mentioned the behaviour; this means the pronoun is close in the text to the original item.  If there were several sentences talking about something else separating the two items then 'that' would be more likely.  For example:

Children who behave badly in classrooms should be handed fines. Of course, this is a controversial policy and many people will disagree with it but it seems clear that a solution must be found to the problem before it is too late. Handing out fines is one possible solution, so the argument goes. Furthermore, another point is made: that that behaviour cannot be tolerated as it will make them defiant.


2/ The pronoun 'they' refers to students.  There is no earlier reference to teachers: the reference is children - them - they; the word 'teachers' appears only later, after those pronouns.  In any case, the context makes it clear that the pronoun refers to the students and not the teachers - I think we can assume that teachers are already assumed to be 'good citizens', rather than attempting to 'become' them.


3/ This is an example of the distance I referred to above.  If we move the reference closer to the original statement then 'this' would be considered better style:

They will become good citizens after they get penalised by their teachers and so this punishment can yield positive results.


I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Pete,

I am very grateful to you for your assistance.

I hope you will continue to motivate ESL learners. You are doing a great job and keep it up as we need erudite teachers like you.


Thanks a lot
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