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Why people introduce themselves on phone by saying "This is John" instead of "I am John"? Which one of "this" and "I" or "he/she" is preferable in different circumstances?

  • Interesting question. I personally tend to use "This is <name> here" on the phone, when the other party cannot see me, and use "I am <name>" when introducing myself to people who can see me (either directly, via video chat, etc.) – Phylyp Dec 20 '17 at 16:50
  • @Phylyp what about introducing other guy if he can be seen,should I say "He is John" or "This is John"? – ashish7249 Dec 20 '17 at 16:58
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1) Introduction of oneself (unseen): - This is John [speaking]; This is [the person called] John. Here, this is used to locate the person in "space", here, on the telephone.

2) Introduction by another person of a person(seen): - This is John [here, you can see John, and another person is introducing him to you and you are not Harry, for example, in roomful of people, it is used to locate him in space. This is John, "not someone else"].

These uses come under the general heading of deixis in English, which can get rather complicated. This and that are used as deictic pronouns. This notion can be looked up separately. They are used to provide information regarding proximity/distance of speakers to each other in speech. deixis

Now, in order to identify oneself as a physical body, one says, to another person: "I am John." [that is, I'm the person called John. Not Harry or Robert.] "We spoke on the phone, remember?"

  • In case of 'seen', when to use "he is john", instead of "this/that is john".Are both statements interchangeable? – ashish7249 Dec 20 '17 at 20:51
  • "This/that is John", when John is visible, is used when you are pointing him out to someone else but it is not his "identity" you are concerned with. "He is John" is to say he is John and not Harry. No, they are not interchangeable 100%. They are used differently: one deictically and the other for purposes of identification. Don't know how else to say it to you. :) – Lambie Dec 20 '17 at 21:30
  • My favorite is when asked "Is this John Doe?" and the answer is "Yes, this is he." Only place I'd ever see grammar like that I believe. – Michael Dorgan Dec 20 '17 at 23:22
  • @MichaelDorgan I never knew grammar was a question of belief. :) – Lambie Dec 21 '17 at 1:02

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