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?

2 Answers 2


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.

  • ,thx, very interesting explanation. I'll remember just the speaker should be be taken into consideration.
    – GarouDan
    Nov 28, 2011 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".

  • @BarrieEngland huhu, nice joke.
    – GarouDan
    Nov 28, 2011 at 22:13

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