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Thread: Is that a cow?

  1. #1
    AlexAD's Avatar
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    Default Is that a cow?

    Hello.

    As I was watching a movie, an actor, who probably had never been to the countryside before, was standing just in front a cow. He asks a man who have brought him there, 'Is that a cow?' (then murmuring, 'Much bigger in person' ).

    My question is if 'that' can be replaced by 'this' (as the cow was standing just near him) or 'it'?
    How would you say that if you were in the actor's place?
    And another one, do the tense mixing I have used seems natural? Is it correct? If there any other mistakes in this post?

    I would really appreciate your help with this.

    Thank you in advance for your reply,
    Alex.
    Last edited by AlexAD; 25-Jan-2012 at 13:09.

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    BobSmith is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Is that a cow?

    [not a teacher]

    I almost certainly would say "that" in this instance because I would perceive my locality and my companion as near, and anything else unknown to me/us as far. If, however, I was holding a small toy cow in my hand, or, the real cow was between my companion and me, I would certainly say "this".

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    Default Re: Is that a cow?

    Just a little detail to mention, the man being told that was standing some distance before the cow.

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    BobSmith is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Is that a cow?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobSmith View Post
    and anything else unknown to me/us as far.
    I want to point out the importance of being "unknown" to us. If the thing was perhaps a person, who I thought was related to my companion, I might use "this", as in "Is this your brother?", even if the person is quite far away.

    Likewise, if I thought the cow was his, I might say "is this your cow", but never "is this a cow", except for the case I made above.

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    Default Re: Is that a cow?

    So, as he had never seen a real cow before, he asked as if he wasn't aware whether it was a cow. Right?

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    Default Re: Is that a cow?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlexAD View Post
    So, as he had never seen a real cow before, he asked as if he wasn't aware whether it was a cow. Right?
    Not from the context you gave. It seems that he had probably seen pictures of cows before, but had not realised that they were so large. He was asking for confirmation that the beast was a cow.

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    BobSmith is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Is that a cow?

    BTW, what movie?

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    J&K Tutoring is offline Member
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    Default Re: Is that a cow?

    There is some overlap in choosing this or that. With inanimate objects it mostly comes down to relative positions of the object, speaker, and listener. With living things there can be an emotional component, and with people there comes a social factor.

    For example, if we are looking at a book and it is away from us, we would refer to that book. If it's near, we say this book- simple. What if we are talking about dogs and you are afraid of dogs? You might say, "That dog is close to us." It depends what distance you feel is close.

    For people, this has a warmer connotation than that. When we want to be introduced to a new friend, we are more likely to refer to them as this no matter the relative positions. "And who's this?" is a way of inviting the stranger into our social circle. We wouldn't point to a friend's friend standing next to him and say, "Who's that?" Of course, if the person refered to is across the room or across the street, it makes sense to say, "Who is that?"

    I also want to point out that you should not try to learn grammar rules from movies. It could be the director simply thought that that sounded funnier than this.

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    Default Re: Is that a cow?

    BobSmith, it is Wild Target. Very funny one!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Is that a cow?

    Quote Originally Posted by J&K Tutoring View Post
    There is some overlap in choosing this or that. With inanimate objects it mostly comes down to relative positions of the object, speaker, and listener. With living things there can be an emotional component, and with people there comes a social factor.

    For example, if we are looking at a book and it is away from us, we would refer to that book. If it's near, we say this book- simple. What if we are talking about dogs and you are afraid of dogs? You might say, "That dog is close to us." It depends what distance you feel is close.

    For people, this has a warmer connotation than that. When we want to be introduced to a new friend, we are more likely to refer to them as this no matter the relative positions. "And who's this?" is a way of inviting the stranger into our social circle. We wouldn't point to a friend's friend standing next to him and say, "Who's that?" Of course, if the person refered to is across the room or across the street, it makes sense to say, "Who is that?"

    I also want to point out that you should not try to learn grammar rules from movies. It could be the director simply thought that that sounded funnier than this.
    J&K Tutoring, I was enjoying reading your nice explanation. I am a big fan of this kind of answers.
    Thank you, a lot!

    But there have come another thing I would like to know in regard to your reply.
    I am staying with my colleague Peter. And there comes a friend of mine.
    If I say, 'That's Peter' to my friend, without trying to be funny, might that be understood like me being not nice to the colleague?

    As for learning English grammar with the help of movies, I, personally, am not a fan of this.
    As a matter of fact, I don't like study grammar rules by reading them over and over again
    (Actually, anyone does? And yes, I do know some rules, may be 60%)

    I find it funny to learn spoken English by watching movies, and then having nice conversations about some grammar used in movies.
    It is just stick to my mind as I usually have emotions connected with that discussions. I think it is perfect way to study something

    Despite realizing that movies contain a lot of 'rubbish', I don't just fire questions on all things, but choose them wisely.
    In fact, the topic about this, that, it has worried me for so long that I am going to do some research about it.
    Last edited by AlexAD; 26-Jan-2012 at 07:03.

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