Demonstrative Pronouns

You may think of pronouns as being what we use to express our gender identities (i.e., she/her, he/him, they/them), and you wouldn't be wrong! But, there is more than one type of pronoun, and they are all used for different reasons. Pronouns are an essential part of English grammar as they are used to replace nouns in a sentence, often to reduce the need for repetition. 

Demonstrative Pronouns Demonstrative Pronouns

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Contents
Table of contents

    Different types of pronouns include:

    • Demonstrative

    • Personal

    • Reflexive

    • Relative

    • Possessive

    • Indefinite

    • Interrogative

    Today we will look at demonstrative pronouns and how they are used. To begin, check out the definition below:

    Demonstrative Pronouns Definition

    A demonstrative pronoun is a type of pronoun that points to/refers to someone or something.

    Demonstrative pronouns are deictic, which means they cannot be understood without context, and their meaning is dependent on a reference to a certain time or space. For example:

    Take the sentence, "this book is the best."

    The demonstrative pronoun "this" is deictic as it can mean different things depending on what it is referring to, i.e. one particular book and not another type of book.

    Types of Demonstrative Pronouns

    There are four main demonstrative pronouns:

    • This
    • That
    • These
    • Those

    Demonstrative pronouns can be used to refer to something in close proximity or something far away. For example:

    "Look at this watch" would be said when referring to a watch the speaker is wearing.

    "Look at that watch" would be said when referring to a watch someone further away is wearing.

    Demonstrative pronouns are sometimes accompanied by adverbs such as "here," "there," or "over there" to determine how close or far away something is. For example:

    "Put this box here" implies that the box will remain close by.

    "Put that box over there" implies that the box will be moved further away.

    "Either" and "neither" can sometimes be mistaken for demonstrative pronouns, but they have slightly different functions. Both words can be used as distributive pronouns, which are pronouns that refer to things in a group separately instead of collectively. For example:

    "I love tennis and football, so I'll be happy playing either."

    "Neither of us wants to watch TV."

    When "either" is used as a conjunction, it is used with "or" to indicate a choice between two things. For example:

    "I'll either wear a dress or a skirt."

    When "neither" is used as a conjunction, it is used with "nor" to indicate that both options are incorrect. For example:

    "Neither Tom nor Brad will win the race."

    Plural Demonstrative Pronouns

    Demonstrative pronouns can be used to refer to a single thing or multiple things (plural). The two plural demonstrative pronouns are "these" and "those," whereas the two singular demonstrative pronouns are "this" and "that." For example:

    "I'll buy this apple" refers to a single apple, whereas "I'll buy these apples" refers to multiple apples.

    "She's stroking that cat" refers to a single cat, whereas "she's stroking those cats" refers to multiple cats.

    "This car is expensive" refers to one car, whereas "these cars are expensive" refers to more than one car.

    "That man is tall" refers to one man, whereas "those men are tall" refers to more than one man.

    When using a plural demonstrative pronoun, make sure that the other elements of the sentence are also plural - otherwise, the sentence will not make grammatical sense!

    Demonstrative Pronouns Photograph of lemons StudySmarterFig. 1 - The sentence "these lemons are fresh" contains the plural demonstrative pronoun "these."

    Demonstrative Pronouns Examples

    A demonstrative pronoun can directly refer to an object in a sentence or be used without an object. In case you need reminding, sentences contain the following:

    1. A subject (a person or thing carrying out the action of a verb)

    2. A verb

    3. An object (a person or thing that receives the action of the subject) - though objects are not always necessary.

    When a demonstrative pronoun is used with an object, it is placed before it. For example:

    "I would like to buy this coat."

    In this sentence, "coat" is the object, and the demonstrative pronoun "this" is placed before it to indicate the particular coat someone would like to buy. When combined, the two words form a noun phrase ("this coat"). A noun phrase is a group of words containing a noun or pronoun and any other modifiers.

    Objects are not always directly referred to in a sentence, as they can be implied through context. In this case, the demonstrative pronoun assumes the position of the object. For example:

    "I'll have some of that."

    Here, "that" is used to refer to something that can only be understood if you are aware of the context. What does "that" actually refer to? Let's take a look at the sentence again with some context:

    "The chocolate cake is my favorite. I'll have some of that."

    In this case, "that" refers to something previously mentioned (the chocolate cake). When a demonstrative pronoun is used to refer back to something, this is known as an anaphoric reference.

    Context does not always have to be written or spoken. Alternatively, the context of a situation could be a non-verbal gesture, such as pointing to something or looking at something. For example:

    *points to chocolate cake* "I'll have some of that."

    Here, the context can only be understood if the listener in the conversation sees what is being pointed at.

    Demonstrative Pronouns Image of men pointing StudySmarterFig. 2 - The sentence "look at that horse" includes the demonstrative pronoun "that."

    Demonstrative pronouns can also act as the subject of a sentence, for example:

    "Those cats are adorable."

    Here, "those" is placed before the subject "cats" to specify which cats. Instead of referring back, "those" refers forward to the cats. When a demonstrative pronoun is used to refer to something that comes later in the sentence, this is known as a cataphoric reference (cat pun unintended!).

    Sometimes, a demonstrative pronoun can be used in place of the subject, meaning the subject is not directly mentioned. For example:

    "Those are adorable" (instead of "those cats are adorable").

    Here, "those" refers to something that is not directly mentioned but instead is implied through context.

    Remember that because demonstrative pronouns are pronouns, they can replace nouns in a sentence, e.g., "I want to buy a car that."

    Demonstrative Pronouns List

    To recap, the four demonstrative pronouns are:

    • This (singular)

    • That (singular)

    • These (plural)

    • Those (plural)

    Demonstrative Pronouns - Key takeaways

    • A demonstrative pronoun is a type of pronoun that is used to point to/refer to someone or something.
    • Demonstrative pronouns are deictic, which means they cannot be understood without context, and their meaning is dependent on a reference to a certain time or space.
    • The four demonstrative pronouns are this, that, these, and those.
    • Demonstrative pronouns can be used to refer to something near (this) or far away (that). They can also refer to a single thing or multiple things (these, those).
    • When demonstrative pronouns refer back to something previously mentioned, it is called an anaphoric reference. When they are used to refer forward to something mentioned later, it is called a cataphoric reference.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Demonstrative Pronouns

    What are the four demonstrative pronouns?

    The four demonstrative pronouns are: this, that, these, those.

    What is an example of a demonstrative pronoun?

    Take the sentence "look at this house"


    The demonstrative pronoun is "this" - it is used to refer to a specific house.

    How do you use demonstrative pronouns in a sentence?

    Demonstrative pronouns are used to point to something specific. It could be something close or far away, or it could be more than one thing at a time.

    Why do we use demonstrative pronouns?

    We use demonstrative pronouns because, along with context, they allow us to make references and place emphasis onto something/someone more specific.

    Why is it important to use demonstrative pronouns?

    It is important to use demonstrative pronouns as a way to differentiate between a general thing/person and a particular thing/person.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Demonstrative pronouns are...

    True or false?"Either" and "neither" are examples of demonstrative pronouns.

    When a demonstrative pronoun is used to refer back to something previously mentioned, what type of reference is this?

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