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On a comment to one of my other questions on this site, a user said:

It’s much easier to answer questions like this when you specify where you've come across the word.

Is the use of the word this correct in such case?

I would be inclined to say “questions like these”, or if I wanted to use the singular form I would rephrase it as “a question like this”.

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Care to explain the downvote? – tmslnz Aug 1 '12 at 16:19
Suggested downvoting criteria are: no research; unclear; not useful. The question is pretty clear and possibly useful. I guess showing your research might earn you the upvotes. – MετάEd Aug 1 '12 at 19:48
up vote 7 down vote accepted

It’s correct. This refers to the particular question; questions means other questions which are similar in nature to it. They do not have to agree in number.

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There's only one question actually "in the frame of reference" at the time the utterance starts. Admittedly, the speaker is introducing others that are like that one, but it's at the very least somewhat sloppy to simultaneously conflate the current question with others (possibly unknown to the listener), and refer to them all collectively as these. The net effect (probably usually intended), is that the speaker is being dismissive - by implication, the actual question is so trivial it's not worth addressing on its own. It has to be lumped in with others first. – FumbleFingers Aug 1 '12 at 23:41

There could be many questions that are like this one question.

Suppose I am in a clothing store looking at shirts. Nine are blue and one is green. I point to the green one and ask, “Do you have any other shirts that are the same color as this one?” There is only one green shirt under discussion, so I must refer to it in the singular. But the store might well have many other green shirts – there’s certainly no reason to assume they have only one other green shirt. So “other shirts” is appropriately plural.

If I was looking at nine blue shirts and two green shirts, then I would ask, “Do you have any other shirts that are the same color as these?” As there are two green shirts, I now refer to them using a plural.

If I had previously seen another green shirt, and I was specifically asking about that one, I might ask, “Where is the other shirt that is the same color as these?”

All that said, in context, saying, “questions like this one” means pretty much the same thing as “a question like this one”. In the first case we’re talking about all possible questions that are “like this one”; in the second case we’re talking about a single, generic question that is “like this one”, without particularly implying that there might not be others that are also like this one.

But it would change the meaning to say “questions like these”. There is only one question presently under discussion, so to refer to it in the plural would arguably be just wrong. I suppose you could say that a plural could mean this question and others like it, but the whole point of the statement is to identify other questions as being like it. So if the writer had said “questions like these”, I think my immediate response would be to wonder, this one and which others?

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I came here to post something to the effect of "it depends on how many example questions there are", but I see you beat me to it. +1 for the detailed example, too. – Marthaª Aug 1 '12 at 20:28

You only asked one question and it is to that one question that this refers.

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If you say “questions like this” then you are referring to one type of question. But “questions like these” means more like many type of questions.

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Not type of questions, no. Just questions, plain and simple. They can be all of the same type, and in fact probably more often than not they are, which is the whole point of grouping them. – RegDwigнt Aug 1 '12 at 16:16

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