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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > "this", "that" or either?    

"this", "that" or either?


"this", "that" or either?
Hello peeps,
A  question that has been bugging me for years:
In the following extract of an open cloze is "this", "that" or either the correct answer?
"...(a narration of an incident of a shark attack)... Other shark experts were unsurprised by the incident. They felt that something like _____________ was bound to happen."
If there is a difference in British and US English, please state it, too.
Much obliged.

23 Nov 2017      

United States

Hi, Zoi.
"This" is the better choice here, because it is the subject being discussed, so it is "close at hand". However, since it didn �t actually  happen to the person speaking,  "that" would also be correct.

23 Nov 2017     

United Kingdom

Hello Zoi,

In answer to your question, I agree with Bruce, and I would say ... �THIS�.

"They felt that something like this (incident that we are discussing now) was bound to happen."

But, if they are specifically referring to an incident which occurred in the distant past, I would say ...�THAT�.

"They felt that something like that (incident which happened last year) was bound to happen."

I have chosen �THIS�, because, for me, the information given appears to be referring to a recent event.


Some time ago, I prepared a 7-page colour Worksheet on �This/That, These/Those �, with hundreds of examples ... household objects; colours; people; jobs; a/an; etc.
If you want a copy, send me your Email address and I �ll Email it to you.
Page 7 refers to �Near/far �; �Recent time/distant time �; �Like/dislike �; �Before/after �; and �Familiar/unfamiliar �.
I think that you may find it useful. It may help you to understand the Topic better.
I hope so. Best Wishes! 
Les Douglas 

23 Nov 2017     


Agree with THIS (but THAT is also possible)
Here �s a nice explanation from here
It can also be used to make the time frame seem more immediate. If a narrator is speaking about past events, �this � often puts the reader into the scene directly, while �that � often makes it feel like something more from the past. 

23 Nov 2017     

United Kingdom

Dear Lynne (Cunliffe),
"...(a narration of an incident of a shark attack)... Other shark experts were unsurprised by the incident. They felt that something like _____________ was bound to happen." 

Lynne, I �m really pleased that we have your expertise here.
But, I �m surprised that your assumption is that this is �a written report �.
According to the OED:
Narrate: �Give a spoken or written account of something �. 
Narration: noun, derived from narrate. 
A narrative is �a spoken or written account ... of a story �. �The practice or art of telling stories �.
�A narrator � a person who narrates something, especially a character who recounts the events of a novel or narrative poem �. 
�A person who delivers a commentary accompanying a film, broadcast, piece of music, etc �.
Also, why do you say, �an attack which happened a while ago �? How do you know that? And why do you say, �they are discussing it now �? How do you know that?
Zoi could have written, 
"Other shark experts were unsurprised by the incident which happened last year."
"They felt at the time that something like that was bound to happen!"
I entirely agree, that �the shark experts were unsurprisED and they FELT ... � indicate that the incident happened in the PAST.
But EVERY action that �happened �, even those that �happened � one second ago, are PAST actions, not PRESENT actions.
If I saw a shark attack a man, swallow the dead man, and then swim away, I would shout immediately: "Oh! That was terrible!"
Because the action is finished, done, ended ... I cannot reverse or alter it. THAT is the end of the matter! It is PAST.
But, if I saw a shark attack a man, bite the man, and then drag him under the water as he screamed, I would shout : "Oh! This is terrible! What can we do to save him?"
Because the action is NOT finished, there is still hope for the man! THIS is what I am thinking! It is a PRESENT situation.
And at this point, I agree with you, Lynne:

Standing on the shore, with the other life-savers, I would say:
"We �ve warned the authorities for years about the dangers of sharks. We �ve all felt that something like THIS incident we �ve just witnessed, was bound to happen!"
Best Wishes.

24 Nov 2017     


The more I read your previous post, the more it gets confusing, because of the contradictions therein.
 You have given an extensive list of definitions of the words "narrate, narration, narrative", which, I believe is something every teacher (good or bad, like me) are aware of. However, you come up with a rhetoric question addressed to one of the members of this community.
Dare I remind you that the �written report � is close to the meaning of �narration � here (there) if we look closely to the OP  ?
 Firstly,  the OP IS  a �reported speech �, aka �indirect speech � commonly referred to as a �narrative � by both amateur and professional grammarians.
Also,  to lighten the burden of having to explain the grammar in wordy sentences, I would perfectly turn to this (or that) kind of simplification. After all, the teachers are valued because of their ability to be concise in their explanations.
Last but not least,  something that really left me baffled was your question concerning the "a while ago" phrase. Let me explain why. When I taught English, a while ago, in the past, some time ago   I believed that a while ago    was a common way to refer to the past, narrating something, remembering something.
In other words, a while ago, when I was a young teacher, I sometimes argued just for the sake of it. Now that I have gained some expertise, I realise (realize) that it takes more than expertise to be able to argue!
All the best,

25 Nov 2017     

United Kingdom

Dear Giorgi,
Thank you for your contribution.
You are right when you say that it takes more than expertise to be able to argue.
Your letter demonstrates this admirably.
Best Wishes,
Les Douglas 

25 Nov 2017     


Actually Giorgi, I likened the OP to a news report on TV. Shark attacks/incidents are most controversial in Australia and every summer the topic is hotly debated and reported on, both verbally and in writing. Shark mitigation and deterrence here has strong arguments on both sides, and that supports my use of �this � because of the extreme likelihood of a fatality happening. Maybe in another part of the world where shark attacks are rare, �that� might be more appropriate. With the OP it could have been verbal or written but here where I am, it is likely to be verbal via current affairs programs.
Every member here is free to write what they like, complex or simple. Of course, when we post something, we could be opening up a can of worms and also not like or agree with the responses. But as long as there is politeness and respect, all should be good. I especially find Les�s explanations useful and explanatory because I like to know the details behind the answer. In fact, I like all answers and thank those who take the time and effort to think about and share their own knowledge and thoughts, whether right or wrong.

25 Nov 2017     


I am used to being misunderstood!
Would never have imagined that my post would lead to the misinterpretation expressed in the previous post(s).
Lesson learned: it �s safer to keep your thoughts to yourself here.

26 Nov 2017