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Here and there the usage of the words this and that look artbitrary and often completely interchangeably.

Example

Today the politician Pete Brown stated that the CIA bribed the president's advisors. This is of course not true.

The word this in the above sentence should refer to the sentence itself shouldn't it? And the sentence should be more correct if it was "That is of course not true."

Is my observation true? If yes, why is that ("this(?)") often done?

Isn't the word this a self-referential word so that logically, saying This is not true is a contradiction in terms?

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  • No, that is not true.
    – Greg Lee
    Dec 22 '16 at 4:40
  • 2
    This in the sentence is a pronoun,so it has an antecedent, i.e., something to which it refers (not itself). In this case, a charge of bribery. This reference to bribery (my reference) is nearer, and that reference to bribery (yours) is farther away, syntactically speaking. Sometimes either pronoun will do.
    – deadrat
    Dec 22 '16 at 4:57
  • This is here and that is over there.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 4 '17 at 22:29
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Broadly, it depends on the point of view. 'This' refers to 'this one over here' while 'that' refers to 'that one over there'.

In practice then, 'this one is red' and 'that one is red' might be interchangeable on the level of colour but that's only one kettle of herring and from other perspectives, the similarity is less important than the difference.

Although it's fairly loose, 'Today… Pete Brown stated…' is 'over there' because it has nothing to do with the speaker.

In this case 'This is of course not true' is 'over here' largely because although stated as a fact, it is clearly the view of the speaker.

'That is of course not true' would be somehow intermediate; still stated as a fact but perhaps not so clearly the view of the speaker.

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  • Uh… thanks Bladorthin and if there's a rule that seasonal greetings aren't encouraged then for politeness, courtesy and general good feeling, that rule should be changed yesterday. While I can imagine that the powers that be won't agree, that's not a reason for anyone to voluntarily uphold such an antisocial rule. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Jan 5 '17 at 22:26
  • 1
    There's also the fact that “Happy New Year” will read as a bit of a non-sequitur to someone reading this in September. Jan 5 '17 at 23:49
  • Uh… if he can't read the date:time stamp, it might. Happy New Year Jan 5 '17 at 23:58

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