Caleb S.
Caleb S.

What Are Demonstrative Pronouns? Definition and Examples

15 min read

Published on: Jul 2, 2024

Last updated on: Jul 4, 2024

demonstrative pronouns

Just as a map helps you pinpoint locations, demonstrative pronouns act like linguistic pointers.

Words like "this," "that," "these," and "those" aren't just ordinary words—they help us identify specific people, places, or things in conversation. 

Whether something is nearby or far away, demonstrative pronouns make it clear and easy to understand. 

Let’s explore what are demonstrative pronouns, how they function, and how they can add clarity to your everyday speech.

Demonstrative Pronouns Definition

“Demonstrative pronouns are a special type of pronoun used to point out specific persons, objects, or ideas in a sentence.” 

They indicate whether the noun they replace is near or far in distance or time from the speaker or listener.

In English, the primary demonstrative pronoun examples are "this," "that," "these," and "those."

"This" and "That"

  • This: Used to refer to a singular noun that is close in proximity to the speaker.
    • Example: "This book is interesting."
  • That: Used to refer to a singular noun that is farther away from the speaker.
    • Example: "That building over there is historic."

[infographic]

"These" and "Those"

  • These: Used to refer to plural nouns that are close in proximity to the speaker.
    • Example: "These cookies are delicious."
  • Those: Used to refer to plural nouns that are farther away from the speaker.
    • Example: "Those mountains are breathtaking."

How To Use Demonstrative Pronouns

Here's how to use demonstrative pronouns effectively:

Identifying Proximity

Demonstrative pronouns such as "this," "these," "that," and "those" help clarify the proximity of people, objects, or ideas about the speaker or listener. They distinguish between entities that are close (near) or distant (far) in space or time.

Near Demonstratives:

  • This and These: Use "this" for singular nouns close to the speaker ("This book is mine") and "these" for plural nouns nearby ("These pens are blue").

Far Demonstratives:

  • That and Those: Use "that" for singular nouns farther away ("That cat is adorable") and "those" for plural nouns at a distance ("Those houses are old").

Distinguishing from Determiners

While determiners precede nouns to specify them, pronouns replace nouns entirely in sentences.

Let’s take a look at the differences between demonstrative determiners (demonstrative adjectives) vs demonstrative pronouns: 

Aspect

Demonstrative Determiners

Demonstrative Pronouns

Definition

Words that precede nouns to specify them.

Words that replace nouns entirely.

Function

Modify nouns for specificity.

Stand alone to indicate specific entities.

Placement

Before the noun.

Replace the noun.

Use in Context

Specify which noun is referred to.

Point out specific entities.

Role in Sentence

Provide details about the noun.

Streamline speech by avoiding noun repetition.

Examples

"This book," "those houses," "her car," "several students".

"This is mine," "Those are his," "These are tasty".

Antecedents of Demonstrative Pronouns

In grammar, the antecedent of a pronoun is the noun or noun phrase that the pronoun refers to or replaces. 

Demonstrative pronouns, like "this," "that," "these," and "those," also have antecedents that they point back to. 

  • Example: "I love this song." 

(Here, "this" refers back to the noun "song" mentioned earlier.)

The antecedent can be explicit or implicit, depending on whether the noun or noun phrase is clearly stated or understood from the context.

  • Example: "Look at that tree! It's so tall." 

(Here, "that" refers back to the tree that the speaker is pointing to.)

Ambiguous Antecedents

Ambiguity arises when a demonstrative pronoun like "this," "that," "these," or "those" could refer to multiple nouns mentioned earlier.

To avoid ambiguity, ensure that the antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun is clear and unmistakable.

Example of Demonstrative Pronouns: 

Incorrect: "I bought a book and a magazine, and it was very interesting."

  • It's unclear whether "it" refers to the book or the magazine.

Correct: "I bought a book and a magazine. The book was very interesting."

  • The antecedent of "the book" is clear, removing any ambiguity.

Other Uses of "That"

The word "that" serves multiple functions in the English language beyond being a demonstrative pronoun. Understanding these various uses can help in mastering its application in different contexts. 

Here are some of the other common uses of "that":

Relative Pronoun

  • Function: Introduces a relative clause, providing more information about a noun.
  • Example: "The book that I borrowed was fascinating."
  • Explanation: Here, "that" introduces the relative clause "that I borrowed," giving more information about the book.

Conjunction

  • Function: In conjunction, it connects clauses or phrases, often introducing a subordinate clause.
  • Example: "She said that she would come to the party."
  • Explanation: In this sentence, "that" connects the main clause "She said" with the subordinate clause "she would come to the party."

Adjective Clause Marker

  • Function: Introduces an adjective clause that describes a noun.
  • Example: "The car that is parked outside is mine."
  • Explanation: "That" introduces the adjective clause "that is parked outside," providing more details about the car.

Demonstrative Adjective

  • Function: Modifies a noun and points out specific items.
  • Example: "I prefer that color."
  • Explanation: Here, "that" is used as a demonstrative adjective to specify which color is preferred.

Expletive (Introductory Word)

  • Function: Used to introduce a clause without adding specific meaning, often for emphasis or clarity.
  • Example: "It is important that you attend the meeting."
  • Explanation: "That" introduces the clause "you attend the meeting," emphasizing the importance of attendance.

Demonstrative Pronouns Worksheet

To reinforce your understanding of demonstrative pronouns, try these demonstrative pronouns exercises. 

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

Choose the correct demonstrative pronoun (this, that, these, or those) to complete each sentence.

  1. _______ book on the table is mine.
  2. Can you see _______ mountains in the distance?
  3. _______ cookies are delicious!
  4. I don't like _______ movie we watched yesterday.
  5. _______ pencils on my desk are new.

Exercise 2: Underline the demonstrative pronouns in the following sentences.

  1. This is the best cake I've ever tasted.
  2. I need to finish those assignments before the deadline.
  3. That was an amazing performance.
  4. These shoes are very comfortable.
  5. Do you remember that trip we took last summer?

Exercise 3: Correct the Sentences

Some of the following sentences use demonstrative pronouns incorrectly. Rewrite the sentences with the correct demonstrative pronoun.

  1. These book is very interesting.
  2. Can you help me with this boxes?
  3. Those is my favorite restaurant.
  4. That flowers are blooming beautifully.
  5. These is the best decision I've made.


Answer Key

Exercise 1: 

  1. This
  2. Those
  3. These
  4. That
  5. These

Exercise 2: 

  1. This is the best cake I've ever tasted.
  2. I need to finish those assignments before the deadline.
  3. That was an amazing performance.
  4. These shoes are very comfortable.
  5. Do you remember that trip we took last summer?

Exercise 3: 

  1. This book is very interesting.
  2. Can you help me with these boxes?
  3. That is my favorite restaurant.
  4. Those flowers are blooming beautifully.
  5. This is the best decision I've made.

All in all, demonstrative pronouns, such as "this," "that," "these," and "those," are essential tools in the English language. They serve as linguistic pointers, helping us to specify and identify people, places, and things in our conversations and writing. By understanding their definitions, functions, and proper usage, you can communicate more clearly and effectively.

To ensure your grammar is always on point, try our advanced grammar checker

For those times when you need a bit more help, give a try to our essay generator - free AI essay writer

Give it a try and see how it can enhance your writing process!

Continue Learning

If you want to learn more about academic writing, grammar, and related concepts, check out these blogs. 

Grammar


Writing


Citation

Dangling Modifiers

Essay Writing

APA format

Homophones

Essay Outline

MLA format

Infinitives

Paraphrasing

Chicago Style

Analogy

Thesis Statement

Harvard Style

Participle

Paragraph

IEEE Citation

Articles in Grammar

Summary

Oxford Referencing

Phrases

Plagiarism

ASA Format

Parts of Speech

Sentence Structure

ACS Citation

Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

What is the difference between demonstratives vs. relative pronouns?

Demonstrative Pronouns: These include "this," "that," "these," and "those." They point to specific nouns and indicate their location or proximity (near or far) in relation to the speaker.

Relative Pronouns: These include "who," "whom," "whose," "which," and "that." They introduce relative clauses, providing additional information about a noun.

What is a misuse of demonstrative pronouns?

Misuse of demonstrative pronouns occurs when the pronoun's antecedent (the noun it refers to) is unclear or ambiguous. This can confuse the reader or listener about what the pronoun is pointing to.

  • Example of Misuse: "I have a pen and a pencil, and it is blue." (Unclear whether "it" refers to the pen or the pencil.)
  • Correct Use: "I have a pen and a pencil. The pen is blue."

How do you tell if a word is a demonstrative pronoun?

A word is a demonstrative pronoun if it stands alone and points to a specific noun without repeating the noun itself. The main demonstrative pronouns are "this," "that," "these," and "those."

Caleb S.

WRITTEN BY

Caleb S. (Mass Literature and Linguistics)

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

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