We use "that" when we refer back to the word/sentence/clause mentioned, e.g, "Do you see that?" (where that refers to the thing which I or you mentioned before).

But we also use "this" to refer back to word/sentence/clause mentioned, e.g, "Will you be present at this enquiry?" (where this refers to the enquiry about which we are talking); or "How will you find this man?" (where this is a man who is not present at the moment).

So what is the actual difference between them in this content??


If a thing is a physical object, and you are showing it to someone, you use this:

  • What do you think of this article? [showing someone the article]
  • What do you think of that article? [the one previously mentioned or away from you,say, on a table.]

BUT: How will you find this or that man is slightly different.

  • How will you find this man? The one presently being discussed.

  • How will you find that man? The one discussed previously or earlier in a conversation.

  • How will you find the man? The man can also be used here.

That is the slight difference with regard to your question.


In many cases, this and that can be used interchangeably.

  • "Will you be present at this enquiry?"
  • "Will you be present at that enquiry?"

In both cases, it is expected that the specific enquiry is already known to both the speaker and the listener.

  • "How will you find this man?"
  • "How will you find that man?"

Again, it is expected that the specific person (or category of person) is already known to both parties.

There is a possible subtle difference in the case of your first example, though:

  • "Do you see that?"
  • "Do you see this?"

Again, both can be used interchangeably, but it is more likely that someone would use this if the speaker expects the listener to approach the same location as the speaker, so it can be seen from the viewpoint/position of the speaker; and that if both the speaker and listener should be able to see the same thing from their respective positions.

But, in most cases, I consider them interchangeable.

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