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 refer to as this (or these) and the one that is far (in comparison) is refer 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 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 a something that is happening now:
2 - Using far pronouns to talk about a situation or condition in past or future:
3 - Using plural near or far pronouns to talk about the general condition of life in the present, past or future:
4 - To Talk about People
You can use demonstrative pronouns to refer to introduce yourself on the phone:
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:
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.
Here 'those' is the object of the sentence.
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’ refers to one thing, so it is followed by a singular noun.
‘Those’ refers to a number of things (restaurants). Therefore, the noun after it is in plural form as well.
The same rule applies to ‘these’ and ‘this’.