Difference Between This and That

What is This?

The word “this” is derived from the Old English word “thes”. Over time, it has evolved into its present form – “this”. “This” has been widely used in speaking and writing English as a demonstrative pronoun, determiner, and adverb.

For example, in the sentence, “I am looking at this table,” the word “this” is used to point out a specific table in vision. In another example, “This is me talking to you,” it is used as a demonstrative pronoun because it is referring to me by implying a distinction between me and others.

“This” is also used to point toward something closer to the speaker in terms of space. For example, in a library, if it is said, “This book is fascinating,” here, “this” implies a book that is present near the speaker.

“This” is also used to introduce people. Mostly in introductions, speakers use “this” to introduce a person. For example, “This is my mother, Helen,” in this sentence, “this” is used to introduce the mother, whose name is Helen.

In terms of time, “this” means the present time. In many cases, “this” in a sentence shows that something is happening at present. For example, “I am asking you to visit me this morning,” in the sentence above, “this” implies today morning.

What is That?

“That” is another commonly used word in the English language that comes from the root word of Dutch “dat”. So far, it is one of the most frequently used words in everyday conversations and writings. “That” can either be used as an adjective or pronoun.

As a demonstrative pronoun, “that” is used to finger at a specific thing the speaker knows. For example, in the sentence, “That was my car”, “that” is meant to convey the sense of a specific car in the context.

“That” is also used to mean an already mentioned thing or person. For example, in “That is a very good idea,” the word is used to imply an idea that was previously stated. “That” also refers to something that is in close proximity to the speaker.

Sometimes, “that” follows “than” when two things are compared without naming them. For example, in the sentence, “The red dress is better than that,” here “that” shows another dress compared to the red one.

Difference Between This and That

  1. “This” is used to mean things that are spatially closer to the speaker, whereas “that” points to things that are relatively far from the speaker.
  2. “This” is an introductory expression, while “that” is not.
  3. “This” cannot function as a relative pronoun. “That”, however, can work so.
  4. “This” is more prevalent in speech, while “that” is used comparatively fewer times in speech.
  5.  “This” cannot be used to introduce a clause, while “that” is used to do so, like in the case of, “said that…” and “saw that…”.

Comparison Table Between This and That

Parameters of ComparisonThisThat
Frequency of UsageReports suggest “this” is more frequently used“That” is used but lesser times while speaking
Grammatical CategoriesIt can be used as a demonstrative pronoun and adverbIt can be used as a demonstrative pronoun as well as a relative pronoun
Spatial Reference“This” shows the closeness“That” shows the remoteness
Temporal Reference“This” implies the present time“That” implies the past and the future
Introductory Feature“This” can be used in introductory expressions“That” can refer to an already introduced entity


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1475158509000678
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/455813