I am studying English and I would like to know the difference about "this" and "that" at this phrase translating to Portuguese.

In the image, the subject held the watch and said "that", so I was in doubt.

  1. How much is that watch? - Quanto é esse relógio?

  2. How much is this watch? - Quanto é esse relógio?

I saw the difference about this and that here Difference between this and that.

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    Since you've found an article that explains the difference between this and that, what don't you understand about the differences? Aug 1, 2021 at 19:53
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    DeepL translate gives "How much is this watch" as "Quanto custa este relógio" and "How much is that watch" as "Quanto custa esse relógio." Looking at Portuguese language learning websites, this seems to be roughly the difference. Aug 1, 2021 at 19:53
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    You're in a jeweler shop, leaning against a display case containing watches. You point at the watch immediately in front of you and ask "How much is this watch?" Then you point across the case, towards the back corner, and ask "How much is that watch?"
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 1, 2021 at 19:55
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    @PeterShor He's probably Brazilian, where in colloquial speech "this" and "that" are no longer distinguished in any meaningful way. See below.
    – tchrist
    Aug 1, 2021 at 20:31
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    It would be very unusual to use "that" to refer to something being held by the speaker.
    – Barmar
    Aug 2, 2021 at 14:08

4 Answers 4


In theory this is easy:

  1. This/these is the English proximal deictic demonstrative determiner and pronoun. It represents the nearer (less distant) of two possible distances with respect to the speaker.

  2. That/those is the English distal deictic demonstrative determiner and pronoun. It represents the more distant of two possible distances with respect to the speaker.

In practice, especially in your personal case, it may not be easy at all.

Iberian languages like Portuguese, Spanish, and Catalan provide three grades of locative deictics — not just two like you find in most dialects of present-day English. Where English now has only proximal and distal grades, Iberian languages also have a medial grade. See here for Portuguese.

Grade Person Meaning English Portuguese Spanish
Proximal first, like where you would use my something here close to me this/these isto, este/estes, esta/estas esto, este/estos, esta/estas
Medial second, like where you would use your something there close to thee/you that/those isso, esse/esses, essa/essas eso, ese/esos, esa/esas
Distal third, like where you would use his/their something over there (yonder) close to him/them/neither you nor me that/those (yon, yonder) aquilo, aquele/aqueles, aquela/aquelas aquello, aquel/aquellos, aquella/aquellas

So the first problem you encounter when translating is that you need to map three grades in an Iberian language to only two grades in standard English.

But another issue is that some speech communities assign these grades differently, particularly in Brazil where you may be coming from. If so, then your instincts and regular translation directions may not serve you well here.

See also: 1, 2. In particular, the latter mentions that:

No português coloquial brasileiro, "isso" e "isto" são usados como sinônimos, sem que se faça diferença entre eles, mas com grande preferência por "isso". A situação é análoga para essa/esta ou este/esse.

Rather loosely translated, that runs more or less like:

“In colloquial Brazilian Portuguese, "that" and "this" are used as synonyms, without any difference made between them but with strong preference for "that". The situation is analogous for [the gendered inflections of both those two words].”

Meaning that colloquial Brazilian makes isso (that) and isto (this) synonyms! Eeek! This is going to be very confusing for any instincts you could possibly have. Do please read that answer for more about all this.

  • Thanks! I said about this because Duolingo used "How much is that watch" like "Quanto é esse relógio", so I created a doubt in my mind about why used "that" to say "esse". Aug 1, 2021 at 21:55
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    French has an interesting way of doing it. They have a word for 'this' but not one for 'that'. So they'll say cette voiture-là meaning literally 'this car over there'. Seems odd for a Romance language with Latin roots - but then French always seems to be short of vocabulary - at least compared to English.
    – WS2
    Aug 1, 2021 at 22:46
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    @Xanne When used in that way - but still it always seems to me as if you are saying "this one here" and "this one there".
    – WS2
    Aug 2, 2021 at 6:21
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    @WS2: cette can mean either this or that. When they want to make a distinction, they use cette voiture-ci for this car and cette voiture-là for that car. But most of the time, whether they mean this or that is either clear from context or irrelevant. Aug 2, 2021 at 12:50
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    @WS2: French does have the indefinite pronouns ceci and cela respectively, which roughly correspond to the English pronouns "this" and "that". But those can't be used as determiners the way that "this" and "that"; for that, you're stuck with ce/cette as you've noted. Aug 2, 2021 at 18:26

I like @tchrist's answer going into the technical details, but I feel like it's missing a basic level of practical explanation. As a native British English speaker here is my instinct on what the rules are:

If you're holding the watch or are otherwise in obvious close contact with it, you must use "this"

If you're far enough removed from the watch that you might want to gesture at it, but still close enough that you could easily touch it without having to walk across the room for instance, you can use "this" or "that" freely. My "easily touch it" criteria isn't exactly correct, as I think this case would apply even if the watch is behind a glass cabinet, for instance — if you're close enough that you could touch it were the glass not there, you can still use either word.

If you're far enough away from the watch that you can't easily touch it, or you're using other sentences, rather than just gesturing, to establish the context on which watch you're talking about, you must use "that". For the latter case I'm thinking something like "I was discussing a watch with you the other day, remember? How much is that watch?". Of course in the latter case you might be tempted to use something like "the" instead of "that", but for reasons I can't quite explain right now "the" doesn't sound quite as good to my ear in that context.

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    +1, I also [native BrE] am unsure of the exact rules, but it's definitely tied to some kind of physical proximity. You could certainly use "this" twice to indicate alternatives, e.g. "how much is this watch? <Puts it down and picks up another> ...and how much is this watch?", so it's not a simple case of that to contrast this. Aug 2, 2021 at 10:02
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    These rules are similar in AmE.
    – Barmar
    Aug 2, 2021 at 14:00
  • I think a good determiner is how one would describe the location of the object as "here" or "there". If asked which watch one was interested in, one could rely "this one here" or "that one there", but it would be very odd to say "this one there" or "that one here".
    – supercat
    Aug 2, 2021 at 16:51
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    @supercat agreed, though my suspicion was that those without a good sense of how English treats "this/that" would likely lack a similar sense for "here/there". I could be wrong though!
    – Muzer
    Aug 2, 2021 at 16:53
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    I can envisage circumstances where I'm with a group of people in London, discussing a specific watch - let's say one that has an unusual history - that is located in Tokyo. Someone in London seeking more information might ask "Who's the current owner of this watch?" - even though they are physically half a world removed from it. 'This' becomes appropriate, not due to the watch's physical proximity but because it is the subject of current conversation.
    – WS2
    Aug 2, 2021 at 18:21

This seems like a mistake. A native English speaker would almost never use "that" to refer to something they're holding, they would always use "this".

As the page you linked to says, "this" is used for things close to the speaker, while "that" is used for things farther away. Something can't get much closer than being held.

  • Is it correct to say "that" being close to the subject but the object is expensive? Aug 2, 2021 at 14:19
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    I don't think the price is relevant.
    – Barmar
    Aug 2, 2021 at 14:21

I would like to add to Barmar's answer, but I don't have enough reputation to comment. It's possible to use "that" to distance oneself from an object. For instance, if you were trying on watches, 99% of the time the watch you're trying on would be "this" watch. However, if there was an incredibly ugly/unreasonable watch, you might use "that".

For example: I'm shopping at a store and I have one watch on the right wrist, and one on the left. I ask the salesmen: "How much are these watches?"

"The nice one on the left wrist is $200, the puke green one on the right is $150"

"THAT? watch is $150??"

  • This watch is $150!? would have the same effect, though. That is really driven by tone rather than choice of word here. In your example this and that are completely interchangeable, though, because both items for comparison are equidistant from the speaker.
    – App-Devon
    Aug 2, 2021 at 16:22

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