If a woman say:

At our last yearly convention in Miami all the men were crazy about this extremely beautiful woman.

Will the person who she is talking to understand that she is talking about another woman – a woman she saw at the convention and possibly not even met her personally? Or that she is talking about herself – being selfish and trying to demonstrate how much men admire her?

  • Thank you, J.R., for making all the necessary edits to my question. I really appreciated it.
    – Itamar
    Jun 25, 2019 at 21:58

2 Answers 2


Yes. The use of "this" to mean a particular, but unspecified, person or thing is very common, and should be understood by all fluent speakers. Examples might include:

  • I found this excellent Thai restaurant -- you should really try it.
  • Channel Five has this news anchor who keeps making stupid mistakes.
  • The college I attended had this very unusual program.
  • In my math course there is this concept I can't seem to understand.

In each case "this" stands for a particular thing or person, but the listener (or reader) is not given sufficient information to fully identify the subject. In some cases the speaker later does provide a name or other details which do identify the subject for which the word "this" stands, in other cases no specific identification is ever made.

For a woman to refer to herself as "this woman", or a man to identify himself as "this man" is very unusual, even abnormal. Sometimes a person intentionally speaks of him- or herself in the third person. This is mostly a literary device, or it is used to suggest the formal patterns of a non-English language in translation, particularly an Asian language. I suspect it is not, in fact, a good translation, but I am not knowledgeable enough to be sure. But even if a person were using third-person to refer to herself as "this woman" (or himself as "this man"), it would not be done in a construction like the one in the question. Instead "this woman" or "this man" is used in place of "I"

This woman needs to tell you something.

This form is used only for limited purposes. I mention it for completeness, and because the question asks if "this woman" might refer to the speaker. I advise a learner not to try to use this form. Confusion and errors are likely.

By the way, the phrase "If a woman say" used in the question is incorrect, it should be "If a woman says" because 'a woman" is singular.

  • Thank you a lot for such a good answer, David.
    – Itamar
    Jun 25, 2019 at 22:11
  • Again, a pointless unexplained downvote. This does not help me improve my answer, and it does not help a learner to understand the problem, if any, with the answer. In fact it helps no one. Jun 25, 2019 at 23:09

Looking up "this" in Merriam-Webster's dictionary, I began to understand the confusion that could be possible regarding this word.

That dictionary gives definition 1a of the adjective "this" as, "being the person, thing, or idea that is present or near in place, time, or thought or that has just been mentioned".

So it certainly sounds like the speaker could be referring to herself as "this" beautiful woman. (You can't get much more "present or near in place".) But that definition (1a) does specify that the person thing or idea is one "that has just been mentioned."

When we use the adjective "this" to describe a noun as it is being introduced into the conversation for the first time, we often mean definition 1d (same source): "being one not previously mentioned — used especially in narrative to give a sense of immediacy or vividness."

Very rarely would people use "this" as an adjective describing themselves. They would use "I"/"me", or if they felt the need to be more formal and indirect, they might even say "myself".

The only reason I can think of that people might use "this" about themselves, might be to add drama to a story they were telling:

"So there I was, this dirty hitchhiker. You would never know I was actually the CEO of General Motors."

In any case the context of the surrounding text should make it clear, which "this" was meant.

  • Excellent explanations. Thank you a lot.
    – Itamar
    Jun 25, 2019 at 22:09

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