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Which sounds natural?

  1. "How much is this/that?"
  2. "How much is it?"

Is "this" or "that" correct only if I am pointing at the object or holding it in my hand? Do native speakers use"that" even if they are pointing at an object near them? I once came across an example in which a native speaker used "that" to refer to an object near him. It was a conversation between two women and one of them asked the other one "what's that?" She pointed at her ring. She was standing next to her.

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    Presumably she used that because it was the other woman's ring, regardless of distance. I think I would use this if I was holding or touching the object, that if I was pointing to it. It wouldn't be very helpful to use it unless the item had already been mentioned in conversation. Apr 28 at 8:19
  • You said you would use "that" if you were pointing to it. If it was far from you not near you. Right? So "that" was used by the speaker because of the reason you mentioned but not because "that" is used by native speakers even if the object is near. Am I right? Apr 28 at 13:01
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    I said 'regardless of distance'. The woman called the ring that because it was on the other woman's finger, even though it was near. I might well call something near me that if I was not holding or touching it (unless I was using this and that to compare a near and a far object). Apr 28 at 17:25
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All 3 are natural in the right context.

"How much is this?" - referring to something close to the speaker, often something currently held in her hands. Pointing at something and calling it "this" can be a tiny bit awkward, but acceptable as long as it's close.

"How much is that?" - referring to something the speaker is referencing, such as by pointing to. Additional alternate use is referring implicitly to something that is already under discussion e.g. "Oh, it comes in red too? How much is that?"

"How much is it?" - referring to an "it" which has already been established by conversation. You wouldn't use "it" when only holding or pointing at something. But e.g. "I'm looking at that red one up on top. How much is it?" is fine.

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  • Thank you very much for your answer. In your explanation about "that" you said "referring to something the speaker is referencing, such as by pointing to." Do you mean pointing to something far from the speaker? And you said "it" isn't only used when holding something or pointing at something. Aren't "it" and "this" synonymous in such case? Because "this" is also used when holding or pointing to something near you like "it". If I understand correctly, then in your example it's not wrong to use "this" is it? "I'm looking at that red one up on top. How much is it/this?" May 5 at 7:47
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    @AntoniaA When pointing, the target shifts from "this" to "that" over subjective distance. "This" must be very close (e.g. holding it in your other hand) and fades to "that" rather quickly. "That" is almost always acceptable (except e.g. holding it in your hand).
    – dkamins
    May 6 at 0:18
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    @AntoniaA I think you seem to really want to say "how much is it?" But "it" isn't really used when holding something (that would be "this"), and it isn't really used when pointing at something (that would be "that"). "It" could be used for something you were talking about previously. It's probably the least common of the 3 ways of asking the question.
    – dkamins
    May 6 at 0:22
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    @AntoniaA You could say "how much is it?" immediately after pointing and saying "I'm curious about that thing over there. How much is it?" You initially reference the item with "that", then use "it" to refer to it again now that it has been brought up in conversation.
    – dkamins
    May 6 at 0:24
  • Thank you very much!!!! May 6 at 6:03

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