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.
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
- Number: Which can be either singular or plural
- 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.
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:
In this example, by using ‘this’ you show that the apple is in your hand or within reach.
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:
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.
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
1 - Using near pronouns to talk about present time (now) or something that is happening 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:
In this example; ''that'', refers to a past time.
Here, in this example; That, refers to a future time.
3 - Using
In the example above; These, refers to general present conditions.
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:
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:
Using 'it' for a singular item, after being mentioned for the first time.
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:
Here, demonstrative pronoun 'this' is the ''subject'' of the sentence.
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.
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
In this example ''that book'' is the subject of the sentence.
In the example above; ''those restaurants'' is the subject of the sentence.
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.)!