This or That or These or Those

by Cherie Tucker

January 2016

If you bring out two desserts to a guest and ask which one the guest prefers, you might say, “Would you like this” and show the brownie or “ would you like that” and indicate the snickerdoodle. The guest will know which you are referring to as you raise each plate with the cookies on them.

The problem arises when you are using the plurals of this and that. The plural of this is these, indicating more than one item near you.

These will come in handy on your trip.

The plural of that is those, indicating that they are farther away.

Please take those to the kitchen when you go.

The felony occurs when you add the unnecessary (and incorrect) “ones,” as in “these ones” or “those ones.” The plural is already taken care of by the plural pronouns, these and those. Unfortunately, you hear the redundant “these ones” often when people are asked which item they prefer, as in “Should I buy these ones or those ones?”

You must also remember to avoid the plural or extend it when referring to “this/that kind of thing” vs. “these/those kinds of things.”

Singular: I chose this kind of napkin for the party

Plural: I had trouble with those kinds of matches before.

While sirens don’t go off when these errors are made in public, they do go off in the minds of people who hear you make these mistakes or who read them in your work. Sadly they are heard so frequently now that people might be becoming inured to them, so be on guard to avoid mixing singulars with plurals.

Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well.

Cherie TuckerComment