It vs. this: When to use which?

It vs. this: When to use which?

by Laura Jones

Updated November 18, 2022

A really tricky problem for many English learners is knowing when to use it vs. this. The main difference is it is a pronoun and this is a determiner and a pronoun. Because of the difference in grammar of this vs it, they are used in distinct ways. In this article, we’ll look at lots of examples so you can learn how to use this vs it correctly. 

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How to use “it”

Subject and object pronoun

It can replace a subject or object that has already been referred to in a sentence. In this usage, we only use it to refer to an inanimate object or an animal, not a person. It is a third-person singular pronoun

  • Look at the cat! It is about to pounce on that poor bird. 
  • Please pick up the book on your way out. It’s on the table.

Weather, time and distance

It can be used as a dummy subject when talking about the weather, time and distances. You cannot use this in these sentences. 

  • It is really hot today. 
  • It’s ten o’clock. 
  • It is a long way to Los Angeles from here. 

Subject when there is no identifiable actor

You can also use it as a dummy subject in several constructions. 

  • It is important to be on time for the meeting. 
  • It is essential that you learn how to drive as we live in a village. 
  • It is thought that Dr. Jameson will give a presentation.
  • It has been shown that paracetamol is helpful in such cases.

Cleft sentences

It can also be used in cleft sentences. You make these types of sentences when you want to emphasize a certain piece of information. 

  • It was only yesterday when all this happened, so I’m still processing it. 
  • It is Dean who is responsible for this, not Sarah. 

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How to use “this”

Introducing a person

You can use this to introduce a person to someone else or to introduce a thing. 

  • This is my colleague, Alicia. 
  • This was my favorite restaurant when I lived here. 

Demonstrating something near you

Use this when you want to indicate something that is close to you. 

  • This is the photo I was talking about! I can’t believe I found it. 
  • I don’t like this room very much. I’d definitely redecorate if I moved here.
  • I think you should buy this jacket, not that one over there.

Common mistakes with it and this

Identifying vs introducing someone

One common error is knowing when to use it is vs this is. You can use it is as a dummy subject when you are identifying someone. In contrast, you use this is to introduce someone. 

  • Who’s on the phone? – It’s my sister. 
  • Who’s this? – This is my sister, Serena. 


You can use both this and it to refer back to something that has already been mentioned, but there is a difference in usage. English learners really often make mistakes with this usage and overuse it. We use it to refer back to a single thing that has already been mentioned. We use this to refer back to whole sentences or previous parts of a text. Take a look at these examples to see the difference between using it and this in this way. 

My computer is essential to me. It is the one thing I can’t do without at work. (It refers back to the computer only.) 

Computers have become essential in the modern workplace. This means that all employers must provide them to their employees. (This refers back to the whole sentence.)

Our garden is pretty small. It is big enough for us, though. 

Our garden gets a lot of sun year-round. This allows us to sit outside even in the winter.

Can you use it and this correctly?

Hopefully, with these examples, you’ll be able to use it and this correctly in sentences from now on. Remember that it is a subject and object pronoun that refers to animals and inanimate objects, and can be used as a dummy subject in several constructions, including with time and weather. We use this to introduce people and to demonstrate something nearby. 

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Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

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