Blog Grammar Rules This vs These: What's the Difference?

This vs These: What's the Difference?

Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Published Nov 01, 2022

this vs these

This and these are demonstratives, which means they indicate a specific noun in a sentence. They’re both important words in the English language.

Many people mix up this and these because they both refer to nouns that are near in space and time.

So what exactly is the difference between this vs these?

The short answer is that this is used with singular or uncountable nouns (e.g. this egg), while these refers to plural nouns (e.g. these cookies).

the difference between this and these

This article will explain the difference between this vs these and help you remember how to use these words correctly in your writing.

Contents:
  1. Quick Definition and Meaning of “This”
  2. Quick Definition and Meaning of “These”
  3. What’s the Difference Between This and These?
  4. Conclusion on This vs These

Quick Definition and Meaning of “This”

This refers to a singular noun that is near in time or space, such as a lamp or a desk.

If you say “I know this song,” for example, you’re most likely talking about the song that’s currently playing within earshot.

We also use this for uncountable nouns that we treat as singular, such as water, sugar, or happiness. For example, you might say “This water tastes funny” to talk about the water you’re currently drinking.

This is often used with words describing time, such as morning, week, and year. When used with these words, this can be used to talk about time in the present or in the near past or near present. For example, you could use the phrase “this afternoon” to refer to the afternoon of the present day.

It’s also important to remember that when the noun is omitted after this, it becomes a singular pronoun. If you say “I enjoyed eating this,” the word this refers to whatever singular dish you just ate.

Quick Definition and Meaning of “These”

These also refers to nouns that are near in time or space, but it is used for plural countable nouns. The noun that follows these must always be plural.

If you say “I don’t know any of these people,” you’re referring to more than one person, all of whom are near in time or space.

Just like this, these can be used as a plural pronoun if you omit the noun afterwards. If you say “Wow, I like these,” the word these most likely refers to whatever plural noun you’re referring to in the present moment.

What’s the Difference Between This and These?

The main difference between this and these is that this is used to refer to singular and uncountable nouns, while these is used to refer to plural countable nouns.

You would say “this necklace” to refer to a single necklace, and “these necklaces” to refer to multiple necklaces. It would be incorrect to say “these necklace” or “this necklaces.”

Let’s take a look at some more examples of how to use this and these in a sentence.

Examples of These in a Sentence

Here are some examples of these used to refer to a plural countable noun:

  • Where did these papers come from?
  • Let me hand you these boxes.
  • These musicians are talented.
  • These shoes are really beautiful.

Here are some examples of these used as demonstrative pronouns, with the noun omitted:

  • These are organic.
  • Let me give you these.
  • What are these?
  • I don’t want any of these.

One of the best ways to learn a word is to see examples from literature in the real world. Here are some examples of these from popular English books:

  • “Some of these women have had so much work done their words come out all mushy because they can’t move their lips.”—Maggie Shipstead, Great Circle
  • “The long route took us through all these old neighborhoods and shopping streets and finally past a tiny little temple in the middle of a bunch of ugly concrete office buildings.”—A Tale for the Time Being
  • “But these days, inside my closet, poetry is as real to me as an ax. I need it more than food.”—Amity Gaige, Sea Wife
  • “But the nostalgia didn’t hit. These weren’t my memories.”—Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation
  • “Places like these were already suffocating. It did naught to add more weight upon the pillow pressed to their faces.”—Chloe Gong, These Violet Delights
  • “These are the times that try men’s souls.”—Thomas Paine, The American Crisis

Examples of This in a Sentence

Here are some examples of this used to refer to a singular noun or uncountable noun:

  • This cupcake is delicious. (singular noun)
  • I told my parents that I want this necklace for Christmas. (singular noun)
  • What is this music you’re listening to? (uncountable noun)
  • Get a grip on all this anger. (uncountable noun)

Here are some examples of this used to talk about time:

  • My friends called me this morning. (near past)
  • What’s for dinner this evening? (near future)
  • I had three cancellations this week. (present)
  • This year has been difficult for my family. (present)

Here are some examples of this used as demonstrative pronouns, with the noun omitted:

  • Don’t forget to turn this off when you leave.
  • Can you please heat this on the stove over a low flame?
  • This is delicious!
  • I like this.

    Finally, here are some examples of this from popular English books:

  • This morning I had poison for breakfast.”—Lemony Snicket, Poison for Breakfast

  • “She stared at him as though he were another architectural marvel of this strange new world.”—Shelley Parker-Chan, She Who Became the Sun
  • “Was I alive? I hoped so, but only because if this was the location of the afterlife, I’d be lodging an appeal immediately.”—Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
  • “The kids stared at me, awestruck. Why had their parents not explained this to them? Probably because they didn’t understand it themselves.”—Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary
  • This is my first experience of a heartfelt apology from Marcus, and so far it has involved six clichés, two butchered literary references and no eye contact.”—Beth O’Leary, The Road Trip

Conclusion on This vs These

There you have it—a complete guide to this vs these. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Use this to refer to singular nouns that are near in time and space
  • Use these to refer to plural nouns that are near in time and space
  • Both this and these can be used as pronouns if you omit the noun afterwards

ProWritingAid correcting these to this

If you’re worried about mixing up this and these, you can always run your work through ProWritingAid, which will show you which one is correct. Our grammar checker will point out confused words and misspellings.

We hope this article helped you learn the difference between these two words!

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Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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