Speak better English by using ‘that’, ‘this’, ‘those’ and these’ correctly. Learn with Dan from BBC Learning English.

This, that, these and those can be determiners or pronouns. When they are determiners they come before a noun and can refer to people or things. When they are pronouns they are not followed by a noun and only refer to things.

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Hi guys! Dan for BBC Learning English here with this week’s Learner Question. Find out what it is after this.

OK! This week’s learners’ question comes from Achmed from Egypt, who says: What’s the difference between that and this and these and those? It’s a good question Achmed. Are you ready?

So, that and this and these and those are all determiners. They go before a noun and they tell us which noun we’re talking about. You can also use them as pronouns but if you do, we don’t include a noun as well and we can only use them as pronouns when we talk about things, not people.

This or these refer to things which are close in space or in time, for example in the present. This refers to a singular or uncountable noun. And these is used for plural nouns. For example, this is my pen. These are my pens. With time, we usually talk about things which are going to start soon, or which are already in progress. For example, this concert is going to be amazing. Or, this is fantastic, I can’t believe we’re winning.

That and those are used for things which are distant in space or in time, for example in the past. That is for singular or uncountable nouns, and those are used for plural nouns. For example, that is my pen. Those are my pens. In terms of time, that often refers to the past. For example, that was a really nice meal, thank you. Those were the best days of my life.

When things are expected, we can also use that even if it’s in the present or the future. For example, that will be John. I told him to call me earlier.

I hope that answers your question Achmed. Thank you very much for writing to us. If anybody else out there has a question for Learners’ Questions, you can email us on: learning.english@bbc.co.uk. Please remember to put Learners’ Questions in the subject box and your name and the place that you’re writing from.

We get so many emails, guys that we can’t possibly answer every single question, but we do read them all. Sorry for that. And for more information, go to our website bbclearningenglish.com. That’s it for this week’s Learners’ Questions. I’ll see you next time. Bye!

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