Identifying People

This is another in our occasional series Language Matters, which looks at  areas of language which often create problems for both learners and teachers. Here there's a brief explanation,with examples and an exercise, of the use of It, this and that to identify people.You can use the activities as fillers at the beginning or end of the lesson, or to resolve problems which crop up in the students spoken or written language. 

Notice that, in English, other people are always identified using it, this or that. You can only use he or she after they are identified. Look at the following examples :

A : Who’s the man with Mary ? B : Oh, it’s/that’s David. He works in our office.

A : Anne, let me introduce David. David, this is Anne. She’s a friend of mine.

The rule is the same when the other person knows you but can’t see you and so doesn’t know initially who is there – for instance on the telephone or in a dark room:

A : Hello Brian! It’s /This is Pauline.

A : Who’s speaking please? B: It’s Angela Wilson

A : Who’s that? Is somebody there? B : Don’t worry, it’s only me, Carol.

Practice Activity

Choose the correct expression from the alternatives given.

1. A : Who was the first person to go into space? B : It / He was Yuri Gagarin, I think.
2. A : Who’s on duty in reception this morning? B : I think it’s / she’s Anne.
3. B : Where’s John? B : It’s / he’s in Pauline’s office.
4. (On the phone) A : Hello, is that / are you Helen? B : No, it’s / I’m Angela. Helen isn’t here today. It’s / She’s on holiday.
5. B : Who’s that / he in the photo? B : It’s / He’s my brother. It / He lives in America.
6. (On the phone) A : Hello. This is / I’m Karen Black. Can I speak to Paul Evans please? B : Hello Karen. This is / I’m Paul. How are you?
7. (In an office) A : Good morning. This is/ I’m Keith Watson. I have an appointment with Pamela Leeson. B : Hello, this is / I’m Pamela Leeson. Pleased to meet you.

Answers : 1. It 2. it’s 3. he’s 4. is that – it’s – She’s 5. that – it’s – he 6. This is – This is 7. I’m – I’m

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