The Point of Demonstrative Pronouns and Adjectives

by | Jun 2, 2020 | GrammarSpot | 0 comments

The Point of Demonstrative Pronouns and Adjectives

by | Jun 2, 2020 | GrammarSpot | 0 comments

Have you ever had someone point a finger at you to emphasize an argument or position? I remember an elementary teacher telling my class (in the dark ages of the ’70s), “Make your point with words, not with your fingers.” I miss Mrs. Davis [sigh]. Her statement was more of an effort to teach us manners than to teach us grammar. It simply wasn’t polite to point. This example helps define demonstratives, which are the pointer fingers of grammar. Their job is to signal proximity or to specify objects. There are four demonstratives in the English language—this, that, these and those—and they can appear in sentences as demonstrative pronouns and/or demonstrative adjectives.

 

Demonstratives as Pronouns 

When demonstratives act as pronouns, they point to the location of objects and people in space and time. They specify objects and tell us where something is. For example, in the sentence “This is the worst movie of all time,” the demonstrative pronoun “this” specifies the object as a movie and tells us where the movie is. Using “this” indicates that the movie in question is right here, right now.

Consider the grammar rules for using demonstrative pronouns:

1. They Can Identify Nouns

  • This is a table.
  • That was my grandma’s table.
  • Those are chairs.
  • These were my mom’s chairs.

2. They Are Followed by a Verb

  • This is a table.
  • That was my grandma’s table.
  • Those are chairs.
  • These were my mom’s chairs.

3. They’re Most Often Used To Describe Places, Things or Animals

However, if a specific person is identified, demonstrative pronouns can also describe people.

  • This is Howard. (specific person)
  • That is her hometown. (places)
  • Those were my dog’s puppies. (animals)
  • These are my books. (things)

4. They Can Stand Alone

  • Don’t do this.
  • Don’t do that.
  • Leave those alone.
  • Leave these alone.

 

Demonstratives as Adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives are different from demonstrative pronouns in that the demonstrative adjectives are followed by nouns, and they express “which one.”

  • This pen works, but that pen is dry.
    • This (demonstrative) + pen (noun) = demonstrative adjective
    • That (demonstrative) + pen (noun) = demonstrative adjective
  • Those boys have blonde hair, but these boys have red hair.
    • Those (demonstrative) + boys (noun) = demonstrative adjective
    • These (demonstrative) + boys (noun) = demonstrative adjective

In both cases, the demonstrative adjectives tell us which one—which pen and which boys.

  • This pen right here.
  • That pen over there.
  • Those boys over there.
  • These boys right here.

Here are the grammar rules for using demonstrative adjectives:

1. They Always Appear Before a Noun

  • This pen writes well.
  • That pen doesn’t write.
  • Those boys are blonde.
  • These boys are red heads.

2. They Need To Be in the Same Form as the Noun (singular/plural)

  • This pen = singular/singular
  • That pen = singular/singular
  • Those boys = plural/plural
  • These boys = plural/plural

3. They’re Often Used To Describe Places, Things or Animals

However, if a specific person is identified, demonstrative adjectives can be used to describe people.

  • That Howard is something else. (specific person)
  • That hometown is hers. (places)
  • Those puppies belong to my dog. (animals)
  • These books are mine. (things)

 

This vs. That

“This” and “that” are the singular forms of “these” and “those.”

“This” refers to something physically, symbolically or emotionally near.

“That” refers to something far away —basically, anything not as physically, symbolically or emotionally as close as “this.”

(Anyone else channeling Grover from sesame street right now? Neeeaaarrrrr, Faaaarrrrrr).

Now Hear This

The demonstrative pronoun “this” is singular and refers to a nearby item.

  • This was my mom’s necklace.
  • This is my last dollar.

As a demonstrative adjective, “this” modifies singular nouns.

  • Put this house on the market next week.
  • I want to sell this house.

Look at That

When used as a demonstrative pronoun, “that” is singular and refers to a far away item. Be careful, though, as it is easy to overuse “that” in writing.

  • That is a new restaurant.
  • That was a popular restaurant.

As a demonstrative adjective, “that” modifies singular nouns.

  • That restaurant looks like it’s closed.
  • Can we eat at that restaurant?

 

These vs. Those

“These” and “those” are the plural forms of “this” and “that.”

“These” refers to objects that are near, either physically, symbolically or emotionally.

“Those” refers to objects that are far away.

How About These

As a demonstrative pronoun, “these” is plural and refers to multiple nearby items.

  • These are the best grapes I’ve ever eaten.
  • Of all the grapes, these have the best flavor.

As a demonstrative adjective, “these” modifies plural nouns.

  • These flowers are the prettiest I’ve ever seen.
  • I love these flowers.

What About Those

Use the demonstrative pronoun “those” to refer to multiple far away items.

  • Those are the prettiest trees.
  • Those have every kind of food imaginable. (said about a row of food carts)

As a demonstrative adjective, “those” modifies plural nouns.

  • Those boots cost a fortune!
  • Where did you find those boots?

 

Breaking It Down

In the simplest terms, demonstrative pronouns are followed by linking verbs and can replace nouns or can stand alone. Demonstrative adjectives, on the other hand, modify nouns and are followed by nouns. Now that you know what is a demonstrative pronoun and adjective, get out there and make your point using words—Mrs. Davis would be proud!

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