We use the word this to point to something near us. Am I right? But why does everybody say: this is fine, this is cool, this is awesome without referring to something. Why not just say: it's fine, it's cool, it's awesome?


2 Answers 2


The difference is the use of a deictic expression:

A deictic expression or deixis is a word or phrase (such as this, that, these, those, now, then, here) that points to the time, place, or situation in which a speaker is speaking. Deixis is expressed in English by way of personal pronouns, demonstratives, adverbs, and tense. The term's etymology comes from the Greek, meaning "pointing" or "show," and it's pronounced "DIKE-tik."

deixis in English

  • It's amazing. The pronoun it can refer to something you are talking about or a statement you make regarding some fact or situation or feeling, etc.. "It is amazing that I passed my exam. It is amazing the sun shines every day."

  • That's amazing. That is deictic. It refers to something your interlocutor has said or something someone is pointing out in reality.
    Person One: I just received a grade (or mark) of 100 on my math exam!
    Person Two: That's amazing. Good for you.

That= the interlocutor received a grade of 100. That refers to what your interlocutor has said, not what you have said.

This and that are signals that some speech that preceded their use is being referred to. The pronoun it is just for general statements from a speaker, not for a speaker's reaction to someone else's speech or even to refer to their own previous speech. A speaker's reaction to another's speech uses that. (and can also use this to refer to the same speaker's previous speech or ideas.).

Person One: I told you I didn't like that report you wrote. I told you it was not acceptable. What are you going to do about this?


  • "It's" could also refer to something said by your interlocutor (particularly a question), e.g. "Do you like my new car?" "Yes, it's amazing!" Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 12:36
  • @chasly-reinstateMonica You have made my point: it is the car. It does not refer to the content of the other person's speech. It refers to the/a thing in reality. That's my point. [that is deictic in the previous sentence]
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 12:41
  • Tsk Tsk Tsk to dvters.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 22:56

English speakers use both. "This is great" means you're referring to something specific that's great, while "It's great!" is more general.

  • Surely "It's great" must refer to some specific thing. This party, the weather, that big pyramid over there etc. Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 23:04
  • How do I explain ... Basically, you wouldn't use "this is great" to describe, say, the political climate. You're talking about a specific thing that's right in front of you, like a sandwich. "It's" is more general, and can refer to things right in front of you, or things far away, or bigger ideas, etc. There's no real grammatical difference, which is why there's no simple way to explain this, it's just how people use it.
    – codi6
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 6:00

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