I often have problems to choose the right determiner when a sentence should start with That or This. I know the rules when we are talking about physical things but as a non-native, I have a hard time to understand which determiner to use in case of abstract (I don't even know if it is the right term) things. I mean the things by which is hard to say how far are from us.

For example, when I'm talking about some phone that is far from me. I would say:

That is the phone with a color display.

It is ok and completely understandable.

But I have a problem in following cases:

The more things you will have, the more will suffer your back. That or This is particularly relevant for small man who doesn't have so much strength in their muscles.


Mobile phones allow you to make a call when you need to. That or This is feature gives you the opportunity to accomplish more things at the same time.

Which determiner is better to use and why? Also, some resources on this topic would be very helpful.

  • 1
    In your final case, that and this are interchangeable, so don't worry about it. In your second example, the prose of the first clause is unidiomatic, but the same inerchangeability of the determine would still operate.
    – Robusto
    Feb 6, 2018 at 15:13

1 Answer 1


A good rule of thumb is that things that are "near" should be this, and things that are "far" should be that. It doesn't have to be near or far in distance: it can be near or far in time, or in relation to what we're talking about. For example, if you're talking about something that happened last year, you might say "I went to Majorca last year. That was when my shoes were eaten by a goat." But if you're talking about something very recent, you might say, "This Monday, I bought a new pair of goat-kicking shoes."

In your examples, you would probably use this, because the facts you mention are immediately relevant to what you're talking about, so the facts are "near" to you.


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