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This and that


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these

‘Can you walk in those?’ Photo by hh_g/flickr

We have lots to do in today’s podcast. First, we will learn something about the words “this”, “that”, “these” and “those”. Then we will go shopping with Kevin and Joanne. And finally, we will hear about Ms Nancy Sinatra, and what she is going to do with her boots.

“This” and “that” are what I call “finger pointing words” – as if you were pointing your finger at something to show exactly what you mean. We use “this” when we point to something close to us, and “that” when we point at something further away. So “this book” means the book that I have in my hand or on the desk in front of me; “that book” is further away, perhaps in the bookshelf on the other side of the room. “These” is the plural form of “this” and “those” is the plural form of “that” – so we say “this book” but “these books”; “that car” but “those cars”. Unless I have forgotten something, they are the only English adjectives with different singular and plural forms.

We can use “this” and “that” as pronouns as well as adjectives. For example, we might say “Could you give me that, please.” And what is “that” – is it a book, or a sandwich, or a railway ticket? Well, the listener knows from the context what “that” means. Perhaps you are pointing to the thing you want.

Now lets go shopping, and while we are shopping, think about the way I use the words “this”, “that”, “these” and “those” in the podcast. Joanne needs to buy some new clothes, and she asks Kevin to come with her. This is not something that fills Kevin with joy and enthusiasm. He would prefer to go to a football match, but unfortunately his team lost their last match and have been knocked out of the football cup competition this year.

So Kevin goes shopping too. Joanne tries on several pairs of jeans. Each time she comes out of the changing room and says “Do you like these”, or “What do you think of these?” (Why does she say “these” and not “this”? It is because, in English, things that you wear on your legs are always plural – trousers, shorts, jeans, tights etc. ) Then Joanne tries on another pair, and asks Kevin, “Tell me honestly, does my bum look big in these?”

Careful, Kevin. It is never a good idea to tell a woman that her bottom looks big, even if it is true. “No, those are fine”, says Kevin. Good, Kevin. That was the right answer. So Joanne decides to buy that pair of jeans, and they move on to look at shoes. Joanne sees some high-heeled shoes, with straps around the ankles – you can see a picture of them on the website. “I want these!” she says, and tries them on. Kevin is appalled. “Can you walk in those?” he asks. “Of course I can,” says Joanne, and she takes a few unsteady steps. “No, I can’t. I think we should leave these shoes in the shop.”

Nancy Sinatra has also been to the shops to buy footwear. She has bought some boots, and in this song she tells us, “These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days, these boots are going to walk all over you!” Obviously, she is having a bit of man trouble. Do you want Nancy Sinatra to walk on you in her boots? No, I thought not.

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