English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm writing an absctract for a paper.

In Portuguese we write esse trabalho (that paper) to indicate that the paper is near the person that we are adressing.

We use este trabalho (this paper) to indicate that the paper is near the person speaking.

So, looks like when we refer to a paper, in portuguese, esse (that in English) would be better.

But, if we translate a phrase like

"Esse trabalho propõe um novo método. (that)"

we get

"This paper proposes a new method.".

So what's better to put in the abstract? Can we use that instead of this?

What's the correct/accepted way to say this in English?

share|improve this question
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Unlike many languages, most varieties of modern English have a two-way rather than a three-way system of demonstratives, exemplified by "this" and "that". "Yonder" exists for a third term, but is not much used in most varieties.

This means that words in the "that" class (including "those" and "there") do not have any particular association with the hearer: they are simply relatively remote from the speaker.

So, though the paper may be immediate for the reader, in English the reader does not figure in determining whether it is proximal or not for the writer, and so "this" is used. "That" would be likely to be misunderstood.

share|improve this answer
,thx, very interesting explanation. I'll remember just the speaker should be be taken into consideration. – GarouDan Nov 28 '11 at 22:12

If the "this/that" describes the paper of which the abstract is a part (or which the abstract describes), then "this" should be used, since the paper is at hand (unless the abstract is separated from the paper, in which case "this" should still be used).

My reasoning for this is that the abstract is part of the paper (not in that the paper needs the abstract, but in that the abstract isn't meaningful without the paper).

Any other papers mentioned in the abstract would be mentioned using "that".

share|improve this answer
+1. I'm sure 'this' would always be used in such cases. – Barrie England Nov 28 '11 at 17:52
@BarrieEngland huhu, nice joke. – GarouDan Nov 28 '11 at 22:13

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.