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  1. milan2003_07's Avatar
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    #1

    You like that box?

    Dear friends,

    Quite recently I watched one of my favorite movies "Double Impact" with Jeanne-Claude Van Damme playing two roles simultaneously (Ched and Alex - twin brothers). In one of the episodes Ched is sitting in a car with Raymond Zhang, who murdered Ched's and Alex's parents long time ago, and Ched is being taken to a place where Zhang wants to persude him to take his side. During the drive Ched is holding a small box in his hands, which is a cigarette-case. Zhangs sees him fingering this box and he asks Ched the question:

    "You like that box? I bought it in Hon Kong. It was 25 years ago".

    Why did he say "that" box rather than "this" box? He was speaking about the box Ched was holding and Ched was sitting next to him on the back seat. Is it possible in this context to say "this" box?

    Thanks

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: You like that box?

    It is possible. The difference depends on the speaker's view of distance or closeness.

  3. milan2003_07's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: You like that box?

    Thanks! Being a Russian native speaker I find it strange to use both "this" or "that" without any change in meaning. In Russian only "this" would be possible because Raymond Zhang was speaking about only one box Ched had in his hands. There was no second box in Ched's hands. It would be understandable to me if Ched had one box in his hands and another one farther from where he was sitting. Then it would be possible to say "this box" about the box in his hands and "that box" about the other one.

    Ok, tell me please if I had a box on my knees and was sitting next to you in a car what would you say "You like this box" or "You like that box" and why? Thanks.

  4. Eckaslike's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: You like that box?

    As Mike said, it's all about perception of distance or closeness.

    I think part of it here is the fact that even though Zhang owns the box, he is not holding it at the time it is discussed, Ched is.

    If Zhang was holding the box he would probably say "You like this box?"

    If Zhang wasn't holding the box he would probably say "You like that box?", which is what I think happened from your description.

    If I'm standing by a house I might say "Do you like this house? [here]". However, if I'm standing across the street and pointing at the same house I would say, "Do you like that house? [over there]".

  5. milan2003_07's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: You like that box?

    A very good explanation indeed. Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Eckaslike View Post

    If Zhang wasn't holding the box he would probably say "You like that box?", which is what I think happened from your description.
    Exactly. At the moment of speaking Zhang wasn't holding the box. It was in Ched's hands.


    Quote Originally Posted by Eckaslike View Post

    However, if I'm standing across the street and pointing at the same house I would say, "Do you like that house? [over there]".
    In this case (if you're standing across the street) is it still possible to say "Do you like this house?" If it's not possible, tell me, please, why - is it a grammar mistake or it's correct but unnatural?

  6. Eckaslike's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: You like that box?

    It may be possible, but to me a bit unnatural.

    In simple terms, if you are next to, holding, or very close to something, especially within touching distance, then the thing is called "this".

    If you are a distance away, then things start to become "that" over there. It's not a precise science, so you could say "this house", from across the street, but it would become more and more unnatural sounding the further you got from the house.

    "this" = "this thing here" (i.e. next to me, with me, by me, on my lap, on my head etc). This hat, this umbrella, this dog, this armchair - implies you are in very close, or at least, reasonably close proximity to it when speaking. You are usually wearing it, holding it, pointing to it, or it is within touching distance (as a general rule).

    "that" = "that thing over there" (i.e. across the street, or across the valley, or a plane up in the sky.....I'd never say "this plane" about a plane thousands of feet over my head, it would always be "that plane" [up there]. To be honest once something goes beyond arms reach I might then start being able to call it "that").

    Of course, it's something we never really think about until someone asks us why!

    Personally, I think the "arms length" general rule is probably a reasonable one to start with until you're really comfortable with it. Anything you can touch easily can be "this", anything you can't can be "that". That way you shouldn't be wrong. But be aware though that for things just out of reach, or not that far away, people might still say "this" and they would not be wrong, especially the thing in question is very close and they can point to it.

    Have a go at making up a few sentences and we can help you hone your new found skill!
    Last edited by Eckaslike; 29-Jul-2015 at 22:38.

  7. milan2003_07's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: You like that box?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eckaslike View Post
    But be aware though that for things just out of reach, or not that far away, people might still say "this" and they would not be wrong, especially the thing in question is very close and they can point to it.
    I see, thanks! Very interesting. I've started thinking how we use the same words in Russian. If I saw an plane flying high above the ground I would say either "this" or "that" no matter how high it's flying. I think it's more common for me to say "this", but I agree that if this plane has climbed too high I'd probably say "that" as well. Never thought about it too profoundly.

    I have another example. Imagine you've seen car just within touching distance parked very close to you. You can tell your friend something like "Oh, this car looks like mine, but a different model". Then 10 minutes pass and the driver moves the car to a farther carpark still visible from where you're standing, but not within touching distance. After that you want to say something else about the car. Following your logic I must say "Well, that car must have been repaired quite recently because I remember last month it was in very bad condition".

    During 10 minutes the car was both "this" or "that". I think, however, I can use "this" in both cases here, because the wasn't moved too far and is still very well seen by both speakers. It's more a matter of preference, I think.

  8. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: You like that box?

    It is a matter of perception. There are no hard and fast rules.

  9. Eckaslike's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: You like that box?

    It's not really a matter of preference, more of habit and accepted practice.

    I would use "this car" for when the car is next to me or nearby, and "that car" when it is in the car park further away, as you said initially.

    Use the general rule of your arms length as a rough guide = can I touch it (or almost touch it).....and unless you have 30 foot long arms you won't be able to touch a car across the street from you.

    Try to detach yourself from how you would think of it in Russian, and have another go, because you've virtually got it.

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