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Are these two words interchangeable or is there a difference? My online dictionary says that "это" and "этот" both mean "this". I'm a bit confused.

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    They aren't interchangeable. The most simplified answer is that you use это - something for this/these + is/was/are/were/ something, while for this/these something it becomes gender and cardinality aware этот/эта/эти/(or again)это something.
    – DK.
    Jul 13 at 4:09

2 Answers 2

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Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that.

Это can be a demonstrative adjective for a neuter noun.

(Это окно выходит в сад)

and этот for a masculine noun.

(Этот дом большой).

But introductory it or this is always это, no matter what comes after.

This is the house Jack built, and this is the wheat that's stored in the dark larder... What's this? This is a house. Это дом, который построил Джек, а это пшеница, которая в темном чулане хранится...Что это?— Это дома.

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These are different inflections of the word, according to the gender of the noun it modifies: «это» mofidies neuter nouns, «этот» — masculine nouns («эта» would be feminine).

Consider using a better dictionary.

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