English Grammar

Demonstratives in English Grammar with examples


The demonstratives in English: this, that, these, those are used to indicate people, animals and things . They fulfill the function of locating an element and expressing the proximity or distance that they have in relation to the position of the speaker. They can play the role of pronouns or determiners , as the case may be. In the next lesson we will explain the meaning of each demonstrative pronoun and the uses that are given to it in everyday speech.

Demonstratives in English: this, that, these, those

The demonstratives “this” and “that” are singular , while “these” and “those” are plural . However, “this” and “these” express closeness or proximity of the object with the speaker, while “that” and “those” convey distance .

  • This:  (singular / close).
  • These: (plural / near).
  • That:  (singular / far).
  • Those: (plural / far).

They act like pronouns when used as subjects in the sentence. Instead, if they precede a noun, then they modify them and act as a determiner word . To better understand what we mean, pay attention to the following examples:

Demonstrative determinant:

  • What’s in this suitcase ?
  • That pasta tastes delicious.
  • I like those pants you wore last night.

Now you can see that the demonstratives are accompanying a noun (suitcase, pasta, pants), pointing to objects with respect to the speaker.

Demonstrative pronoun:

  • Take a look at this .
  • That ’s a very bad choice.
  • Can we have one of these ?

In these sentences we see that the demonstratives act as the subject in the sentence and do not accompany any noun.

Demonstratives determinants in English: this, that, these, those

The demonstratives: this, that, these, those can act as determiners if we place them before a noun . There are various uses for these words in different circumstances.

Pointing out things

We use “this” and “that” with singular nouns that can be countable or uncountable:

  • Try to read this essay .
  • What does this movie make you think of?
  • Anastasia lives in that house by the train station.
  • Can you sign this form here for me, please?

On the other hand, “these and“ that ”are used with plural nouns :

  • These Math books are very expensive for me to buy.
  • I need to buy those pants .
  • I will not use these red shoes .

Time phrases

It is common to use demonstratives with words that describe time and dates such as morning, afternoon, night, week, month, and year. Also to indicate “the one who is coming” or “the one we are currently at.

  • We’ll be with her some time this evening .
  • Marcos seemed very excited this afternoon .
  • Sarah is in Italy all this month .

Demonstratives in English pronouns: this, that, these, those

Demonstratives can also act as pronouns. The pronoun is the word that takes the place of the name in the sentence. Therefore, when we use a demonstrative as a pronoun, it changes its location in the sentence because it is used as a subject.

Referring to things or ideas

We generally use this, that, these, and those as pronouns to talk about things or ideas .

  • Fry this potatoes over a high flame for five minutes.
  • Are they happy with that contract ?
  • Can you turn that off if you’re not listening it?  [Talking about the radio].
  • What flavor are those ? Chocolate or strawberry. I can’t see them.  [Speaking of ice cream].

Referring to people

This, that, these and those can also be used as pronouns to talk about people, when we identify others or ourselves, and to ask the identity of other speakers.

  • Irene, this is my sister, Dana.
  • Is that your fiancé over there?

Uses of This and these, that and those

Here is a guide that will help you better understand how to use the demonstratives this, that, these and those.

Distance or closeness

Demonstratives are used when we speak of physical proximity or distance .

This and these

Commonly “this” and “these” serve to point out things and people that are close to the speaker , the writer or things that are happening at the moment.

  • Shall I use this coffee machine here?
  • Is this what you are looking for?  [Pointing to something]
  • I’ll deliver these boxes on my way home. (I’ll deliver these boxes on the way home.)
  • Do these baggages belong to the Obamas?  [Pointing to the luggage]

That and those

We use “ that” and “those” to indicate people and things that are not easy to identify in a situation. They are more distant from the speaker and perhaps closer to the listener.

  • Who’s that? Is that the lady you told me about?
  • How much are those hats?

Sometimes they may not be visible to either the speaker or the listener:

  • Real Madrid! That ’s my favorite team.

Emotional distance

We use “this” and “these” to refer to things that convey positivism to us , we are happy to have an association or that we approve.

  • I love these new pair of shoes. They are very comfortable.

But we create distance if we use “that” and “those” :

  • It looks like those awful painting.

Sharing knowledge and giving new information

We may use “that” instead of “the” to share knowledge or information . It is common to do this when we tell a story or explain something.

  • Do you know that old house on the corner? Well, they’re going to turn it into a drugstore.

Sometimes we use “this” instead of “a / an” to talk about something recent or important , also to introduce a new thing or person in the story.

  • This boy knocked on the door and asked if I wanted to buy some cookies.
  • Then, suddenly she pulled out this big pile of brochures from her briefcase…

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