Demonstrative Pronouns

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

What Are 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

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.

  1. Number: Which can be either singular or plural
  2. Distance: Which can be either near or far
Pronouns Near Far
Singular This That
Plural These Those

Uses of Demonstrative Pronouns

In general, demonstrative pronouns are used to assist you in showing something.

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 from 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 of them 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 do not necessarily show physical distance. You can use them to refer to distance in time as well. In this case, the present time is seen as near and the past or future is 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 this example, 'this' refers to the present time.

2. Using far pronouns to talk about a situation or condition in the 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 this example, '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 introduce yourself on the phone:

Hello, this is Steve.

Here, 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,' you just need to use 'they.' Look at the example below:

Look at that! It's beautiful!

As you can see, we used '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!

As you can see, we used 'they' for a plural item, after being mentioned for the first time.

Demonstratives as Subjects and Objects

Using demonstrative pronouns to point to something

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 cant read this; the handwriting is awful.

Here, demonstrative pronoun 'this' is the object of the sentence. You can easily recognize the object by the position 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.

Tip!

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.)

Differences Between Demonstrative Adverbs, Pronouns, and Determiners

Since you followed the article; you know all about demonstrative determiners and pronouns. But What are demonstrative adverbs?

What Are Demonstrative Adverbs?

Two out of the four demonstrative pronouns (or determiners) are also used as demonstrative adverbs. They are:

  • This
  • That

'That' as a Demonstrative Adverb

  1. The word 'that' can act as an adverb (also called intensifier) that modifies an adjective or another adverb.
  2. We use "that + adjective" usually in negative sentences.
  3. 'That' in this usage has an additional stress in spoken language.

John's brother was not that handsome. I saw him at the party last night.

This new collection of winter garments are not that well-designed.

'This' as a Demonstrative Adverb

  1. The word 'this' can act as an adverb (also called intensifier) that modifies an adjective or another adverb.
  2. It is usually used in spoken English with a hand gesture to say how big, how much, etc. something is.
  3. We use "this + adjective/adverb" usually in negatives and questions.
  4. 'This' in this usage has an additional stress in spoken language.

The cat was this big.

I have never thought that the building might be this tall.

Review

Demonstrating means showing, indicating, and pointing to something; that is exactly what demonstrative pronouns do.

Distance Number
This near singular
These near plural
That far singular
Those far plural

Functions

  1. To show reachability
  2. To distinguish something by difference in distance
  3. To show distance in time
  4. To talk about people
How They Are Placed in a Sentence
Demonstrative Pronouns instead of a noun in the place of subject or object
Demonstrative Determiners before a noun

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