Demonstratives express distance in space and time. In this lesson, we will discover the rules, types, uses, and more in detail.

"Demonstratives" in the English Grammar

What Are Demonstratives?

Demonstratives (derived from the Latin word 'demonstrativus' meaning to point out) indicate the distance of an object, event, or person in space or time in relation to the speaker.

Demonstratives: Types

The four main English demonstratives are:

Near Far
Singular This That
Plural These Those

Proximal Demonstratives

This and these refer to something(s) or someone(s) near the speaker. 'This' refers to one person or thing and 'these' refers to more than one. These are called near or proximal demonstratives:

  • space proximity

This banana looks ripe.

These bananas are grown in India.

  • time proximity

There will be a party later this week.

We all seem to be in a hurry these days.

  • grammatical proximity (referring to something close in the sentence)

My wife says we should move out. This is a bad idea.

Distal Demonstratives

That and those refer to something(s) or someone(s) far from the speaker. 'That' refers to one person or thing and 'those' refers to more than one. They are also called far or distal demonstratives.

  • space distance

That girl over there is our daughter.

Can you see those people down below?

  • time distance

That day I decided to quit my job.

I will never forget those happy days we had together.

  • grammatical distance (referring to something close in the sentence)

That is not a very brilliant idea.

Using "this" and "that" as demonstrative determiners

Demonstratives: Functions

Based on their grammatical functions, demonstratives can be divided into three groups:

Demonstrative Determiners

When 'this,' 'that,' 'these' and 'those' come before a noun or an adjective that modifies the noun, they act as demonstrative determiners. For example:

This book is more interesting than that old book.

Demonstrative determiners can also come before a number. For example:

Those three are not as clean as these two.

Demonstrative Pronouns

When 'this,' 'that,' 'these' and 'those' stand alone, they are demonstrative pronouns.

This is more interesting than that.

Demonstrative Adverbs

We have two types of demonstrative adverbs in English. One is used to point to time and the other is used to point to the place of someone or something.

Near Far
Here There
Now Then

These books here are yours, Sicily.

That mansion there is my friend's.

Demonstratives: with Possessives

When we want to use possessives, we should first determine whether we are talking about attribution or possession:

  • When talking about attribution, we can only use 'that of' or 'those of':

Her own experience was different from that of her friends.

Her fame was bigger than that of Beyoncé.

  • Normally, we cannot use 'that of' or 'those of' to talk about possession, except in formal context:

My dogs are happy, those of John are not.

It's better to say 'My dogs are happy, John's are not.'

Diana's grades were all good, but those of the remaining students were not.

This is a formal sentence. This usage is not very common in spoken English.

Archaic Demonstratives

These demonstratives were used in Shakespearean English and in older poetry. All three refer to something distant but within sight:

  • Yon
  • Yond
  • Yonder

the fresh blooms on yonder tree

I'll to yond corner.

yon high eastward hill


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