We talked on the phone for a while. In the end, we decided to hold Tom's funeral this weekend.

So in this case this refers to the current weekend in that past tense story.

However, some people feel that the phrasing suggests present tense.

What do you think? Does it sound more like past tense if one sticks to that?

  • 2
    That sounds better for me.
    – davcha
    Jul 11, 2015 at 13:57
  • 2
    This seems like a request for rephrasing, or maybe a question about grammar. Perhaps we should move this to English? Jul 12, 2015 at 23:24
  • There is nothing wrong with using words like "this" and "today" in past-tense narrative fiction. (People at that writers site should have told you that.) If this is fiction narrative, where the past-tense narrative is describing a scene that is currently being played out in front of the reader, then the use of "this" here like that is completely fine. -- BUT if this is dialogue in real life, where the speaker is saying this to a 3rd party, then there are the usual restrictions when the speaker uses time references like that; these issues are usually discussed in grammar books.
    – F.E.
    Jul 23, 2015 at 0:26

4 Answers 4


The problem you're having is that you're talking about a past tense event in a present tense narrative.

We talked on the phone for a while. In the end, we decided to hold Tom's funeral this weekend.

What that is saying is 'we had a conversation two weeks ago, in June and as a result of that conversation we are having the funeral this weekend, in July.

Compare that to

We talked on the phone for a while. In the end, we decided to hold Tom's funeral that weekend.

This would change the meaning to say that you had the funeral two weeks ago in June.

The only context in which 'this' would work would be if it was being reported as a quotation about what was said. But even then it would be difficult to convey that the intended time frame was the two weeks prior.

  • This is a good answer. Why did you delete it? Jul 12, 2015 at 3:52
  • @MonicaCellio I realised I was answering a slightly different question than the one being asked! so thought I would rewrite, but then forgot what I was going to rewrite anyway! (life getting in the way and all that)
    – Michael B
    Jul 12, 2015 at 12:03

I would recommend switching it to "that". "this" is used for referring to something that is "close" figuratively, so is more often used in the present tense. "that" is used for when you want to refer to something "far away" figuratively.


It doesn't sound like present tense. But it does seem to refer to the end of the week when the story is being told.


Using just the example given, I would conclude the writer is saying to the reader: "Two people had a conversation on the phone recently, and during it they decided to hold a funeral for a person named Tom on the current weekend from the narrator's perspective."

The past tense component ("We talked on the phone for a while. In the end, we decided...") seems more like a means of advancing the story without going into the details of the conversation, while "...this weekend" suggests the narrator is speaking about something that is going to happen.

Ultimately, regardless of what period of time in which the story is set, it seems the narrator is in his/her present. However, if "this" had been changed to "that" it would read more like what the narrator is saying could have happened any amount of time in the past (relative to the narrator's present).

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