With examples from Justified and Castle
While these and those are spelled almost identically, save for that one vowel in the middle of the word, they do have different meanings. These is the plural of this, while those is the plural of that. Everything you need to know, right? Okay, not so much, because we need to look at what this and that mean in order to understand what these and those mean.
This means “the person, thing, or idea that is present or near in place, time, or thought or that has just been mentioned.” So when we use the word this, we are referring to something that is close physically or chronologically. For example:
“Is this the famous US Marshal turned hillbilly-whisperer, Raylan Givens?” said AUSA Vasquez, looking askance at the somewhat worse-for-wear Givens, complete with cuts, bruises, and his ubiquitous hat.When we use these we’re talking about multiple things -- these being a plural after all -- that are close in that same sense.
“Unfortunately, yes it is,” replied Art Mullen in the same tone. “And these are some of the hillbillies that he’s managed to whisper for us today,” he said indicating the two Bennett brothers who were cuffed and on their knees at Givens’ feet.As you can see, when this and these are used, Art and AUSA Vasquez are referring to people physically close to them. If they wanted to talk about people or anything else further away, the correct word would be those instead of these.
Continuing with our definitions, those is the plural of that, which is defined as “the one farther away or less immediately under observation or discussion”. For example:
“Dickie, I never asked if you stole those drugs.”Or
“I never had a girl. Just those damn boys.”In both cases, those is referring to something or someone physically distant, although it could also reference something close if it's being held by someone else, or may not be present at all. That is unlike these, which we’ve seen is used when that same item is very close, if not actually being held.
Here's one last example from Castle to help demonstrate the difference:
"Castle, what the heck are those?" Beckett said, narrowing her eyes at what the writer was carrying.In this example, Castle uses these because he's referring to the flowers he is holding, while Beckett uses those because she's talking about what Castle is holding.
Castle looked around as though trying to figure out what she was talking about, before finally gesturing with what he was holding. "What, these?"
"No, Castle," Beckett's voice dripped with sarcasm. "The other bouquet of flowers you're carrying. Of course those!"
"Oh!" It was like a light bulb turning on above his head. "These are for for Alexis. I wanted to celebrate how well she did in her exams."
So, how do you remember the difference? If you're talking about something close physically or chronologically, or it’s possible to substitute this in your sentence, you should use these. If you’d use that for a singular item, those will always be the plural.
These at m-w.com http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/these
Those at m-w.com http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/those
This at m-w.com http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/this
That at m-w.com http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/that