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Here and There


Techniques > Use of language > Similar Words > Here and There

Method | Example | Discussion | See also



When you have a choice of using 'here' or 'there', for example in 'here you are' or 'there it is', choose the version that will have the impact you desire based on the principles that:


Here There
Near Far
Psychologically close to me Psychologically close to you
Informal Formal
Empathetic Separate



Friendly: 'Oh, here you are, good to see you.'
Formal: 'Oh, there you are, good to see you.'

Close: 'Here is it, come and get it.'
Distant: 'There it is, take it.'


We perceive many things in terms of space and location, especially relative to ourselves. When we say 'here', we are perceptually locating something close to ourselves. When we say 'there' we are locating it away from ourselves.

When I locate something 'here', I am mentally placing it close to me, within my personal space. So if I say 'Here you are' as I hand something to a person, I am also placing the person close to me. This indicates that I trust and like them perhaps a bit more than if I used the more distant 'There you are'. This is seldom a conscious choice and you may be able to do some subtle mind-reading by noticing which is used.

So should you always use 'here'? Possibly not, as the person may not want to be close to you. Maybe they have higher status and maybe they do not yet trust you. As well as being psychologically more distant, 'There you are' is slightly more formal and respectful and may be more appropriate to use with strangers and superiors.

This pattern continues with other 'here' and 'there' phrases, such as 'here/there it is'.

If you are going to meet a friend at a coffee shop and arrive first, you could send them a message saying either 'I'm here' or 'I'm there'. A difference between these is the perspective you are taking. Saying 'I'm here' is from your perspective, though the other person still thinks of it as 'there'. So saying 'I'm there' is perhaps a little more considerate, displaying empathy and reducing the cognitive effort they have to make.

If you are looking for something, when you are close to it and the other person is further away, you would most likely say 'Here it is' to indicate its proximity to you. If it is not close to you, then you would point and say 'There it is'. This is less personal and more about indicating physical distance rather than psychological distance. Such are the vagaries of language, you could even used 'Here/there you are' in this treasure hunt. The difference now is that, as the human hook of 'you' has been added, the 'here/there' psychological distancing becomes more significant.

See also

Proxemic Communication, Empathy


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