Is there a difference between:

How did I do this?


How did I do that?

If not, is there a preferred one? If they are different, when should I choose one over the other?

I am not a native English speaker.

  • 2
    This is not a duplicate question, but the accepted answer might clear things a bit.
    – Unreason
    Nov 17, 2011 at 10:37

2 Answers 2


If the task you are wondering about is right in front of your eyes or you chose to do it yourself, use "this". If someone else brings that tasks to you and you're wondering how to tackle it, use "that".

If I remember correctly, "this" usually refers to something closer to the speaker than "that".

  • 1
    You're right about the general this/that distinction, but I would use How did I do that? in almost all cases (even if that is right in front of me).
    – user13141
    Nov 17, 2011 at 9:41
  • I think that's because solving a task moves it further away from you, mentally, wheras a task you still have to work on resides right in the focus of your attention.
    – Raku
    Nov 17, 2011 at 10:27
  • 1
    @onomatomaniak, what if you are still (strongly) feeling the consequences of the task/actions? Let's say you spilled coffee all over your shirt. Here I feel "How did I do this?" is better. (I think the explanation for the frequency is that you normally don't start to analyze how you did something immediately after it; only in cases when you are surprised by your own actions, which in all fairness is not a typical scenario). For me this is +1, answer is good and concise.
    – Unreason
    Nov 17, 2011 at 10:55
  • @Unreason Truthfully, I can't currently think of a circumstance in which I'd say "How did I do this?" Maybe it's just a personal quirk. Similarly, I'd sarcastically say to myself right after spilling my coffee, Oh, THAT was good, and not Oh, THIS was good.
    – user13141
    Nov 17, 2011 at 11:10

"How did I do that" usually refers to something you did before, like you were discussing with a friend the bungee jumping that you did yesterday. "How did I do this" refers to when you just did something, and it's right in front of your eyes, like if you were talking to a friend right after finishing the bungee jump. "How did I do this" also often relates to an object, and "How did I do that" refers to a situation, often.

So that's it! If there are questions you can ask me, I am a native English speaker.

  • Hello, Monica. The literal spatial and temporal considerations of this (proximal) and that (distal) have been covered in depth before. There is even a broadening to metaphorically 'near' or 'distant' notions, concepts, in one of the answers at the suggested duplicate. // If you wish to answer questions on ELU, please take the tour, and look at the recommendations at the Help Center. It's also helpful, to gauge the type of answers considered meritorious on the site, to look at highly upvoted answers to questions not asking for single words. Mar 19, 2021 at 16:26

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