In English, we use this to indicate something close to us, or the first one and that to indicate something further off, or the next one. Apparently, early English did not have this distinction.

This quote is from here:

that: From c. 1200 opposed to this as indicating something farther off.

Chinese has 这, 那 which seem to correspond with this, that.

Has Chinese always made a distinction between this and that? In old Chinese was this distinction present?

  • 2
    Reechen, du sollst mal Antworten schreiben, das weißt du ja. Warum so schüchtern? Hör einmal auf den Leuten hier. Tut ja nicht weh.
    – Pedroski
    Jan 4, 2019 at 11:54

2 Answers 2


The distinction was present early on. In Classical Chinese, this is「此」, still used in Modern Chinese, while that is「彼」, which is not really used anymore except fossilised in some words.



  • 1
    Also 是, for a more general this: 《論》:是可忍,孰不可忍?
    – Michaelyus
    Jan 4, 2019 at 11:06

"这" also can indicate something has just mentioned.

  • Yes, like: I know 1 + 1 is two. I know that. Then 'that' refers to '1 + 1 = 2' Then 'that' is an anaphor, from Greek 'anapherein' literally meaning 'carry back'. I just wondered if the difference between this and that was present in old Chinese. In fact, I'm sure Old English had this distinction too.
    – Pedroski
    Jan 4, 2019 at 5:33

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