This and That

Why Shouldn’t That Stone in My Hand Hit This Window over There?

by Owen Fourie

In answer to the question in the title, you might say that if I use the stone to break the window it would be an act of violence.

Such an act would get me into trouble. However, if I listen to you and put the stone down, we still have a problem.

The violent act has been averted, but the use of two words in the title must be corrected.

This and that; these and those

Correct usage of these two words, as well as their plural forms, requires us to do two things:

  1. note the position of the speaker in relation to the objects he mentions;
  2. describe the proper place of those objects in time and space.

The following tabulation will make this clearer:

Objects close to speaker in space or time

Objects removed from the speaker in space or time







Let’s apply this to the title:

Why Shouldn’t That Stone in My Hand Hit This Window over There?

The stone is close to me, and the window is farther away. Correctly, the title should be

Why Shouldn’t This Stone in My Hand Hit That Window over There?

Let’s apply the plural usage:

Why Shouldn’t These Stones in My Hand Hit Those Windows over There?

We have applied these uses to distance; let’s also apply them to time:

Let’s say that many months have passed since the aborted stone-throwing incident. You ask me what made me want to break that window, and I say,

At this moment, I cannot recall why I wanted to do such a ridiculous thing on that occasion.”

At the time of my response—at this very moment—I am finding it difficult to recall the reason for wanting to break that window on that occasion—that time that is long past and at a distance from this moment.

Demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns

In this article, we have looked at the usage of this and that as demonstrative adjectives.

They can be used as demonstrative pronouns, too.

Let’s imagine that I have put the stones down on a table, and we are discussing them because they are actually semiprecious stones, which would be of interest to a lapidary.

I pick up one of the stones, and while I am holding it, I point to another one on the table, and I say,

This is beautiful, but that is exquisite.”

Here, I have used this and that, referring to the stones without using the word stone, so I have used this and that as pronouns, not as adjectives.

The difference between this and that

Both words are used as adjectives, pronouns, and adverbs. Only that can serve as a conjunction and a relative pronoun.

  • You hoped that I would not break that window.
  • The window that you saved from damage is the larger one of the two on this side of the policeman’s house.

Avoid this usage

In formal speech and writing, don’t use this in this way:

When I put the stones down, I saw this policeman looking through the window.

This is colloquial or informal usage.

Phew! I’m glad that you convinced me not to throw that stone.


If there are any points about the use of this, that, these, and those that still puzzle you, please ask here for clarification. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

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