Demonstrative Pronouns in English Grammar

Demonstrative Pronouns in English Grammar

A demonstrative pronoun is a pronoun mostly used to point to something based on its distance from the speaker. In English these pronouns have four forms.

Demonstrative Pronouns in English Grammar

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrating means showing, indicating, and pointing to something; that is exactly what demonstrative pronouns do. They indicate distance and time and tell you where something is in relation to the speaker. Like other pronouns, these pronouns can replace a noun. Demonstrative pronouns are categorized based on two factors:

Demonstrative Pronouns: Categorization

  1. Number: Which can be either singular or plural
  2. Distance: Which can be either near or far

In the following table, ‘number’ indicates how many objects each pronoun refers to, and ‘distance’ refers to how near or far the object is to you. Let us take a look at these pronouns and their usage.

Pronouns Near Far
Singualar This That
Plural These Those

Uses of Demonstrative Pronouns

In general, demonstrative pronouns are used to assist you in showing something. It is usually done by using distance.

1 - To Show Reachability

The most important use of demonstrative pronouns is to show reachability. By using ‘this’ or ‘that’ you can show, if what you are speaking about is within your reach or not. Take a look at these examples:

This is an apple ; it is sweet .

In this example, by using ‘this’ you show that the apple is in your hand or within reach.

That , over there , is my house .

In this example, you are speaking about the house form a distance.

2 - To Distinguish Something by Difference in Distance

By using two different pronouns, the speaker can differentiate between two things by distance; the one which is near (or nearer) is referred to as this (or these) and the one that is far (in comparison) is referred to as that (or those). Here reachability may not be the case.
Look at the following examples:

My sister and I share a room ; this is my bed and that is hers .

In this example ‘my bed’ is nearer than ‘my sister's bed’. None of them may be in reach but one is *nearer* than the other.

These are my friends and those are my colleagues .

In this example, again ‘my friends’ are nearer than ‘my colleagues’.

3 - To Show Distance in Time

Demonstrative pronouns not necessarily show physical distance. You can use them to refer to distance in time as well. In this case present time is seen as near and the past or future are seen as distant. There are three different ways to use demonstrative pronouns to talk about time:

1 - Using near pronouns to talk about present time (now) or something that is happening now:

Is this a bad time or can you talk now ?

In the example above; 'this', refers to a present time.

2 - Using far pronouns to talk about a situation or condition in past or future:

That was amazing .

In this example; ''that'', refers to a past time.

That will be hard to take care of .

Here, in this example; That, refers to a future time.

3 - Using plural near or far pronouns to talk about the general condition of life in the present, past or future:

These are strange times .

In the example above; These, refers to general present conditions.

Those were hard times .

Here, Those refers to general past conditions.

4 - To Talk about People

You can use demonstrative pronouns to refer to introduce yourself on the phone:

Hello , this is Steve .

Look at the example above. The person is introducing himself by using the term ''this''.

As you can see, distance and time are not indicated anymore when you use demonstrative pronouns for people.

Avoid Using Demonstratives in Two Consecutive Sentences

When you use a demonstrative pronoun to refer to something for the first time in a sentence, you need to remember that if you want to refer to the same thing again, you have to use ‘it’ instead of the demonstrative pronoun. The same rule applies to ‘these’ and ‘those’, only you have to use ‘they’. Look at the example below:

Look at that ! It’s beautiful !

Using 'it' for a singular item, after being mentioned for the first time.

Check these out ! They are made of great material and they are cheap too !

Using 'they' for plural items, after being mentioned for the first time.

Demonstratives as Subjects and Objects

Demonstrative pronouns can become the subject or the object of a sentence. You should know that being the subject or object does not change the meaning of these pronouns. Let’s see some examples:

This is what I have to read .

Here, demonstrative pronoun 'this' is the ''subject'' of the sentence.

I can’t read this ; the handwriting is awful .

Here, demonstrative pronoun 'this' is the object of the sentence. You can easily recognize the object by the place of the demonstrative pronoun. whenever it is after a main verb it is an object.

We are not going to sell those to the customers ; they are hideous !

Here 'those' is the object of the sentence. Remember, there is no noun after the demonstrative pronoun.

Pronouns vs. Determiners

We talked about demonstrative pronouns, now let’s talk about demonstrative determiners. You remember that demonstrative pronouns can replace nouns; demonstrative determiners on the other hand, are placed before a noun.
Demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative determiners look just the same. This means we have this, that, these, and those as determiners as well. However, as a pronoun, they can become the subject or the object of a sentence themselves, yet as a determiner they must have a noun after them. The noun has to be singular when it follows ‘this’ and ‘that’, and plural when it comes after ‘these’ and ‘those’. You can see in the following examples that none of the determiners are alone and they all have a noun after them.

That book is so good that I’ve read it more than ten times .

In this example ''that book'' is the subject of the sentence.

Those restaurants are all very expensive .

In the example above; ''those restaurants'' is the subject of the sentence.

I’ll have to get another job if I want to pay all these bills , or I will have to move out of this apartment .

Here, ''these bills'' act as the object of the sentence.


Remember, demonstrative determiners must agree , on the number, with the verb and the noun being used after them.

These books are interesting .

NOT (These book is interesting.)!

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