I am helping a friend edit a manuscript for an informal reference book about music. There are occasional instances where determiners are being used in a way that I find unfamiliar or awkward. I'm unsure if it's subjective preference, or if there is a technical error. Here is an example sentence (it is preceded by an image of a portion of a piano keyboard with an arrow pointing to a particular key):

Notice where that key is on the piano. Whether we flatten the note above or sharpen the note below, it ends up taking us to this same key.

I recommended changing "this" to "the" near the end of the sentence: "...it ends up taking us to the same key."

However I am unsure what technical reason, if any, to make this recommendation, other than it sounds more correct to me.

Is there any reason to prefer "the" over "this" in this example?

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    You have a point. I'd use that both times, or this both times. Aug 16, 2023 at 17:23
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    Presumably there is something earlier in the text indicating which key that key is. It may point to a single key by name, or to the result of some earlier instruction, like "find a black key". Once a particular key is designated, you can use this or the, no difference, except for the fact that this contrasts with that. You can also use that again, since you've used it before and it still refers to the same key. In fact, that's what I would recommend. Aug 16, 2023 at 17:24
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    @JohnLawler Indeed there is; an image with an arrow pointing to a specific black key precedes the text.
    – JYelton
    Aug 16, 2023 at 17:26
  • There's a problem not addressed in the extract given; 'Whether we flat the note above ...'. But the note above what? The treatment at Europianosnaples.com/piano-keys seems easy to follow (with the exception of an ungrammatical sentence). // 'This' is more accurate here, pointing to 'that' key already mentioned, though some might think this usage over-formal. Aug 16, 2023 at 18:39
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    @JYelton - Not in any musical circles I've worked in for the past 50 years, sorry. Maybe it's a transpondian difference. I'm UK.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 17, 2023 at 7:48

1 Answer 1


This same note is not wrong, it is slightly literary and emphatic. It was used in the KJV Bible. For example:

The king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.
(Ezek. 24:2 KJV)

However, in such a context such emphasis may not be needed. I personally would also replace this with the, to match the language register and also to avoid the reader stumbling on a less common expression.

  • I'd say it's more acceptable to replace 'this' with 'the' in the Ezekiel quote; the two variants are tight synonyms. (Actually, I'd use 'that very'.) But using 'the' in OP's example is not absolutely constrained to mean 'that key in both cases' (though it would be the more likely interpretation). Aug 16, 2023 at 18:43
  • If I show you "This same can of dogfood costs only $1.49 at PetTown" or something along those lines, would you change "literary" to something else?
    – TimR
    Aug 16, 2023 at 18:50

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