"Exploding whales?" My date stared at me as if I had given him some bad news. He'd taken me to this fancy Italian restaurant. "That's what your thesis is about?"

I'm not sure why, but this sounds better to me than a. Can I use this in this way in fiction?

  • "this" is colloquial in this usage. I would not use it in literary writing, unless you aim for a spoken language feel.
    – user5645
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 12:55
  • 1
    I'd only use 'this' if refering to a specific object for a specific reason: But why this restaurant?
    – CLockeWork
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 13:11
  • 1
    I think it's fine, much like using some in the same context. It gives the story a conversational feel.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 14:41
  • Why did I get a downvoted? Ha, I think this is the first downvote I get on this site. (I'm full of that @Stack Overflow.)
    – wyc
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 15:42

5 Answers 5


I think in this case this serves to emphasize the object in the sentence and connotes a specific kind of consideration or attitude (the narrators?) towards the object . On a natural level I find it quite reasonable - but I don't have a precedent or formal reference to support that.


You have a first person narrator, you're trying to convey a sense of character, and this is commonly used in this way by (some) people in informal speech, so it's perfectly okay and appropriate to use in this situation.

Most of the rules for formal and academic writing can be blithely disregarded when you're writing dialog or a first-person narrative, because you're trying for a reasonable approximation of casual conversation, and in real life people break all the rules.


It changes the meaning for me.

The use of "this" implies to me that you are still at the restaurant in question, whereas the use of "a" would imply that you were no longer there. "a" also implies that you don't care which restaurant it was, only that it was fancy.

  • 1
    Yes, but the non-proximal version would be "to that ..." as opposed "to a ..." - also consider "So he had taken me to to this place, where <etc>" in the context of a an account of something that's happened - where 'this' does not necessarily denote presence or proximity in present-time. Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:52

As stated the use of this in place of a is a Southern colloquialism. It would be okay to use if the story is first person and the protagonist/narrator is native to the appropriate region.

It should be noted: it immediately gives the sense of the narrator being a impoverished uneducated Southerner. It pushes more emphasis on her opinion of how fancy the restaurant is, and implies she unused to such places.

If the story was written in third person, the grammar would be expected to conform with traditional grammatical standards since it's an semi-omniscient narrator telling the story.

  • 1
    May I ask, southern where? England or US? I would disagree that it sounds uneducated, neccesarily, as it could also be rather dismissive, but also that a southerner using a southerner colloquialism means she sounds uneducated.
    – Mac Cooper
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 8:39
  • Southern US. I added that just for reference because I can tell by the conversation the characters are having she isn't unintelligent, but part of being educated is knowing & using proper grammar even subconsciously so as not to avoid a mistake. She's apparently is working on a thesis, she'd be extremely aware of how she speaks during classes and with her colleagues, because it's a common misconception that those with a Southern dialect are ignorant, just because of their accent. Just cause ya'll understand how they're ain't no problem with with it, don't mean people don't jump to conclusions.
    – Xander
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 22:30
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    Not just Southern US. I'm a Yankee and I'd use it. It wouldn't be considered ignorant-sounding where I come from.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 1:41
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    Indeed. See e.g. My Favorite Year, wherein a comedienne touts the comedic potential of "This guy walks into a psychiatrist's office" in preference to "A man walks into...".
    – phenry
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 2:25
  • "So, this guy" is a good example, I think it's quite clearly an emphatic use of "this". Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:55

No. It obfuscates the meaning of your sentence and impedes thought flow; especially in the case given, which I would rewrite completely for clarity.

[ironic] Edit for Clarity: I say that it confuses and makes understanding your sentence more difficult because I couldn't even tell how I was supposed to read the sentence at first. I actually thought it was a fragment. I had to re-read it a few times before I figured out what you were trying to say.

I say that it impedes thought flow because it breaks me out of your story; it totally distracted me from the interesting, relevant, first sentence about the 'thesis'. Granted, it would have been less distracting if I had immediately understood the sentence, but when I say that I would rewrite it for clarity I mean that I personally would probably reorganize the setting information out of the middle of the dialog.

  • For clarity: How does it obfuscate the meaning? How does it impede thought flow? Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 5:35
  • I'm hoping your comment is an ironic joke about the opacity of my own sentence. :) Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 7:39

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