16

Consider a context like the following:

There was a time when the United Kingdom and France were the world's foremost political powers, heading empires that spanned every continent. These two nations were at the forefront of the arts and technology. Th_se days are over. Now the United States and China share most of the economic influence, with Europe coming at best third when it manages to speak with a single voice.

Should it be these days, those days, or can either work? Do these and those give different impressions?

On the one hand, the days in question are in the distant past, which calls for “those”. It does seem a bit jarring to use “these days” to refer to the distant past, given that “these days” on its own means ”nowadays“. On the other hand, the days in question are the ones that have been mentioned just previously, which tends to call for this/these. They're also the first referent of two, making them the “this” and the present the “that”. Using “those days” is a bit jarring because it seems on the surface to refer to an unspecified or underspecified period on the past, rather than to the specific period that has just been mentioned. On the gripping hand, maybe it's just one of these cases where either this or that will do.

(Obligatory this is not a dictionary lookup request: I'm well aware of the differences between this/these and that/those, as well as the meaning of expressions such “these days” and “in those days”. My question is specifically about this case which does not involve a set expression and where there are arguments for both. I'm generally comfortable with choosing by feel but I originally wrote a paragraph like the one above with “th1se”, someone told me it should be “th2se” instead, and I'm now doubting.)

  • 3
    It's 'those'. It's not about the distance in reference in the text, it's the distance in time outside of the text, in life. – Mitch Oct 22 at 21:41
  • Those days: a period of time in the past Remember when we were kids and life was easy? Well, those days are gone. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/those%20days – user067531 Oct 22 at 21:46
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    Either one works. "Those" is more idiomatic, but "these" may be used if the author wishes to maintain a sense of viewing things from the past. – Hot Licks Oct 22 at 21:58
  • @HotLicks sounds a bit off to my ear. These days were hotter than most. - sure. These days are ... I can't really think of an example sentence that doesn't sound ragged. – David M Oct 22 at 22:42
2

These days will soon be over (a future ending) is when you'd use these. You are still living through the days, but not for much longer. They will then become those days, separated from you by a distance of time.

(With a spatial separation, those can once again become these. With a separation in time, that is fundamentally impossible. This fact of finality colours all use of these days or those days. Not sure if that is necessary to say, but the implication may not be there in some other language I don't know of with different structure.)

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    Note that "those days" can also be used to refer to times in the future. e.g. "Those dark days lie ahead." – eyeballfrog Oct 23 at 16:54
21

Semantically these/those holds just as true for days as it does for physical objects.

These days means the ones you are currently experiencing. As in, the days right in front of me are ....

Those days means the ones with a bit of distance from current times.

No different from:

These are my pants said while holding them up.

Those are my pants said while pointing to them on the chair.

Once you lead an idea with "There was a time ..." you've introduced that we're discussing a past time (semantically pointing to them, if you will). Therefore, without the proximity needed for these we use those.

Not remotely jarring.

These days are over is quite jarring on the other hand. To my ear it's a strange way of predicting impending doom.

  • “I bought a new pair of pants yesterday. Th_se pants are green.” Would using these be impossible if the pants are currently in the wash? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 22 at 22:43
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    @Gilles Nothing is impossible. But, I don't think I'd ever say it that way unless I was proximal to those pants. <---- Self-contained example. – David M Oct 22 at 22:46
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    @Gilles I bought a pair of pants yesterday. These pants are green, mind you. But, I was looking for a pair of brown pants. It sounds a bit folksy, but these becomes permissible because we're calling them into the proximity of the mind for an example. Make sense? – David M Oct 22 at 22:49
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    @DavidM, I would think that "these" works in your example because we are now referring to the "closer" pair of pants than the desired brown ones, which would be "those" pants if the example were extended. I agree with what you said -- just pointing out an aspect. *IANAG – user191721 Oct 23 at 10:06
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    "These" can also be used for textual proximity. As in, "In the Abyssinian dynasty certain pants were reserved for exclusive use of the Emperor. These are the pants I shall now discuss." Or, closer to the OP, "In the past, some time periods were characterized by the dominance of the UK and France. These periods were also marked by...." Switch "periods" for "days" and you get the question. – Nick Matteo Oct 23 at 17:44
2

These or those? Lexico/Oxford

These/those are the plural forms of this/that, and behave in the same way. As a determiner this is used to identify a specific person or thing close at hand or being experienced. As a determiner that refers to the more distant of two things near to the speaker, or to a specific thing previously mentioned.

With the aforementioned citation, 'those days are over' is correct as presented by your quoted section.

2

This answer is only really relevant if you are trying to make sense of something you read, and you thought it was wrong. This is an advanced technique.

These days are over

is also correct. It is a tense called "historical present". It is used to make history more relevant and urgent

thoughtco artical about it.

  • 1
    It is grammatical but is it correct in the given context above? Those makes far more sense in context unless the power shifted just now or you're speaking as though from when it happened. – David M Oct 23 at 16:35
  • artical? Am I missing a pun? – Jeffrey supports Monica Oct 24 at 13:47
  • @Jeffrey no you are noticing my crap spelling – WendyG Oct 24 at 13:58
  • @DavidM yes it makes sense, it is talking about my countries glory days, people often discuss them as though they are still very present. – WendyG Oct 24 at 14:01
  • I would believe it takes a little more context. An argumentative text could contain "these days are over" in order to say that we (including the speaker) cannot continue to behave as before. A different "speaker" might say "those days are over" to say that they (UK and France, but not the speaker) are beeing ignorant of the change. – ghellquist Oct 24 at 14:30
1

It seems to me that either choice could work.

"Those days" would be the normal choice, referring to days in the the past, whereas "these days" are the ones to which I am presently referring.

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