Student or Learner
Last night his parents Phil and Liz, who live in Windsor, said in a statement: "This is the saddest day in our lives."
The rest part of the report says the death of the serviceman occured on Tuesday and the report was included in the Thursday issue of Daily Mail. Thus we know the parents made the above statement on the day after the tragic accident.
My Oxford dictory states:
That ---- (used to make a person or thing specific, esp when it's seen as distant in space or time from the speaker/writer
This ---- (used with days or period of time related to the present)
I take it as whether the word this may precede a certain day or period of time is a subjective question, sheerly depends on the speaker's or the writer's perspective. It's, to a certain level, like the relationship between two closely-connected tenses: the simple past and the present perfect, i.e., where the speaker or writer feels there is a link between the present discussion and the event in question, however distant it may be from the the current time, the use of the word this is justifiable. Therefore, had the parents heard the news on Tuesday, they would still have been right to use the word this to refer to the very day, on which their hearts were broken.
The gap between the time the death happened and the time the statement was made known is, at its best, fourty-eight hours. I suppose the father and mother chose not to use the word that partially because a time span of mere fourty-eight hours isn't sufficient to said as distant in time.
My problem is, although the explanation seems reasonable, at least for me, it doesn't appear to be supported by the examples given in the same dictionary.
Here the word this is used before a time expression that either is part the present time or includes the present time. Or, it is used with a time expression that, together with the present time, can be included in a timeframe before which the choice of the word this is logical.this week (i.e., the current) week, month, year, etc
this morning, i.e., today in the morning
this Tuesday, i.e., Tuesday of this week
this minute, i.e., now
these days, i.e., currently;recently
Unless native speakers do consider, consciously or not, the day the serviceman's father and mother saide the statement, and the time the writer of the report finished his work as parts of a kind of bigger timeframe, I can's see my argument agreeing with what the dictionary shows. Then it's just not for me to make the judgement.
What do you think of this problem? Please tell me your opinions.
I would use this/that according to the degree of emotion and how connected the events are to the time of talking. It could have been a week before, but as they are grieving now, this is the saddest day makes sense. If they were being interviewed, say, a year later, then that was the saddest day would make sense. The dictionary examples are simply examples that cover general usage, but that doesn't mean we are forced to follow them slavishly- the pain and grief is current, so link it to the time of speaking. Language exists to serve our needs, not the other way round.