"that" when I have to use "that" in the simple sentence and what's different between "that" or "the/a" with

He didn't buy "that" car


He didn't buy the/a car

Ps: Please give me more example or any reference URL

  • This is such a basic concept that I'm curious how it works in your native language. How do you differentiate objects in space, for example this car vs. that car vs. a car? Would you use the same article for all three?
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 2:04
  • @Andrew I guess my problem could be "Clause sentence" with "That", because I see a lot of sentences to use "that" in the end of sentence like "I want that car" but i don't know what's different between it and "I want a car"<--meaning I want any car. or "I want the car "<--- meaning for specific car . thanks
    – willie
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 2:46
  • That car is the one that you see in front of you. You see one. Imagine we are talking and I say I want that car. Then you ask which car? and I point to a car and say "that one." Or if you say simply I want a car I might ask "what car do you want?" Then you show me a picture of a car on a Web site. Then you say this one. Since the picture is very close to you, this might seem more fitting than that. However, since the picture represents something far away, you could also say that car in that situation as well.
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 4:44
  • @willie "he didn't buy that car" is not a clause use of "that". It's just a basic indication of which car I might mean. If you want to know how to distinguish between "that" as an article, and "that" as a subordinate conjunction, then please edit your question to include that information. Otherwise any basic English dictionary should tell you what "that" means.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 5:24

1 Answer 1


a car

This asks your listener to consider some car in their imagination. You don't know which one. It could be any car.

I want a new car.

If I had a car, I wouldn't have to walk.

I need to borrow a car to transport the piano.

the car

Once you have a particular car in mind, you say the car.

Alice: May I borrow your car?

Bob: Sure.

(time passes)

Bob: Here are the keys to the car.

In this conversation, Alice identifies a car, and now Alice and Bob both have a particular car in mind. So Bob says "the" car to refer to the particular car under discussion.

this car

To refer to something close to you, in your hand, etc. use this.

Alice is holding a magazine with pictures.

Alice: I want to buy this car.

Bob: What car?

Alice points to a car.

Alice: Look. This one.

that car

To refer to something farther away than this, or to make a distinction between a this reference, use that:

Situation 1 - to distinguish between this and that

Alice: I want to buy this car.

Bob: What car?

Alice: Look. This one.

Bob: What? This one here?

Alice: No, no. Not that one. This one.

Situation 2 - to refer to something in a conversation

Alice: I want to buy a car.

Bob: What car?

Alice: A Dodge Nitro.

Bob: That car is not good.

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