Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns

In this lesson we look at demonstrative adjectives and pronouns, and the difference between them. 

This, that, these, those - Demonstratives

Both demonstrative adjectives and pronouns use this, that, these and those in similar ways. They refer to objects or people that are either near or far away (in time or space) and either singular or plural.

Meaning of this, that, these, those

  • This: Singular nouns that are nearby in time or space 
  • That: Singular nouns that are further away in time or space 
  • These: Plural nouns that are nearby in time or space 
  • Those: Plural nouns that are further away in time or space 

Examples about Space (Distance)

  • This is a really boring film.
  • Can you pass me that pen?
  • These are the best shoes I've ever bought.
  • Those students are from the local school.

Examples about Time

  • That (referring to 2000s) was a decade of great prosperity. really boring film.
  • However, this decade, people have become much poorer.

You'll notice that while some of the examples were followed by verbs (e.g. is/are) others were followed by nouns (e.g. pen/students).

This indicates the difference between demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns. While demonstrative adjectives are used with nouns, demonstrative pronouns stand in place of the noun.

Let's look a bit closer at each.

What is a Demonstrative Adjective?

Demonstrative adjectives are used to say more about, or to modify, nouns or pronouns. They therefore come before the noun/pronoun.

  • This book is really boring.
  • I want that piece of cake.
  • These people should be let in first.
  • Can you take those shoes to the counter.

In these examples, the demonstrative adjectives tell us which one—which book, which piece of cake, which people, and which shoes.

So it is this book that's boring (not that book over there).

Take a demonstrative adjectives quiz

What is a Demonstrative Pronoun?

A pronoun replaces a noun, so with demonstrative pronouns, they can't precede nouns. 

A demonstrative pronoun is used to replace a specific person or thing that has been mentioned before (or alternatively it may be understood from the context without having been previously mentioned).

They are usually used to talk about possession or to describe places, things or animals. Note that the choice of this, that, these and those is still related to whether it is something near or further way. And they are singular or plural so must have the correct subject-verb agreement.

  • This is my book. (possession)
  • That was a good story. (describing)
  • These are the best chocolates I've ever tasted. (describing)
  • Those were my brothers' rings. (possession)

Demonstrative pronouns can also stand alone, unlike adjectives.

  • I love this.
  • Don't do that.

As a demonstrative pronoun is used in place of a noun, this means it is used as a subject or an object.

  • That looks like an exciting book (that is the subject)
  • Don't do that (that is the object)

Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns Compared

A good way to see the difference between demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns is to see how they are used in different ways to say the same thing: 

Demonstrative Adjective 

  • This book is mine.
  • That story was good.
  • These chocolates are the best I've ever tasted.
  • Those rings were my brothers'. 

Demonstrative Pronoun

  • This is my book.
  • That was a good story.
  • These are the best chocolates I've ever tasted. 
  • Those were my brothers' rings. 

More on Adjectives:

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