Ok, this instance of "dritte" is an even better false friend for the Norwegian-speakers, than the "dritte" orange :D
(in Norwegian the word is "dritt", and technically could gain an "e" if applied as an adjective to a definite noun but usually is agglutinated instead... and it does not mean "third")
I'm going to copy and paste this comment from a user that no longer has an account:
"Das" and "dies" are stand alone and do not have a noun. You can say: "Dies ist mein Freund" or "Das ist mein Freund" (This/That is my friend). When you introduce two people to a third person, you can say: "Dies ist Tom und das ist Anna" (This is Tom and that is Anna). Both are OK, but "Das" is the most common form.
You cannot say "das Hund ist schnell". It is grammatically wrong. You use dieser/diese/dieses instead. They have always a noun. You cannot use them without a noun. For example: "Dieser Hund ist schnell" (This dog is fast).
Why do a lot of european languages fail to distinguish "this" and "that" while other languages do have the distinction?
This = something closer to you. That= something farther from you.
I've been told that French has the same problem distinguishing this and that, yet I notice they have different words for describing "this".
I hope you provide a citation for what you said because I can't just take your word for it.
languages just develop differently. for example, in spanish, they have three words (not counting the different variations for gender and plurals) Esto= this Eso= that, and Aquel, which means something like "that one over there." so they could ask, why does english only have two distinctions instead of three.
This doesn't quite answer my question, it just says that spanish has 3 of these terms. Thanks anyway.
Regardless, in German both "this" and "that" use "die" interchangeably. Look up any english to german dictionary.
I'll just learn to live with it. Thank goodness we have body language and fingers to point at so we can tell what is "that" versus what "this" is.
Well, if we can get away with only having two levels of distance distinction where Spanish, Turkish (bu, şu, o) and Japanese use three, then it's easy to see how languages can get by with only one.
In any case, you can distinguish them if you need to with something like this ...
"Das hier" = this "Das da" = that
D(ies)er Mann da ist ...
It's just that the distance distinction is not obligatory like it is in English.
But I believe jener is used instead of das when comparing two items at two different distances. Taking an example from Rosetta Stone, a girl holding a ball says, "Dieser Ball ist gelb." She then points to a ball farther away from her and says, "Jener Ball ist rot." It's "that", but more like "that one over there."