Demonstrative pronouns are pronouns used to indicate people or things that are near or far from the speaker, temporally or spatially. Demonstrative pronouns are somewhat vague, so context is key to understanding whom or what a demonstrative pronoun is referring to.
Of the demonstrative pronouns, this, that, these, and those are the most common and easily recognized. These four pronouns indicate whether something is near to the speaker or not and whether the speaker is referring to one thing or more than one thing.
|this||singular||near the speaker|
|that||singular||away from the speaker|
|these||plural||near the speaker|
|those||plural||away from the speaker|
ESL TIP: You may notice that English has fewer demonstrative pronouns than your first language. Some languages (Japanese and Korean, for example) use different pronouns for referring to things that are far away from both the speaker and the listener. English, however, uses that and those, for all things that are far away from the speaker, whether they are near the listener or not.
Here are some examples of demonstrative pronouns in action:
- John gave me this.
- Those are not your yours.
- Don’t throw that!
- These were all I could find.
Take note that none and such may be singular or plural, depending on what they are referring to:
- None of the guests were willing to help us clean up after the party. (plural)
- None of this information is helpful. (singular)
- Such is to be expected. (singular)
- Such are the problems we wrestle with. (plural)
The demonstrative pronoun neither is always singular because it refers to a singular option among two choices.
- Neither of my grandparents likes pizza.
- We could have cereal or toast, but neither sounds appetizing.
Finally, take note that some of the words that function as demonstrative pronouns may also function as demonstrative adjectives when used to modify a noun:
- This is my favorite book. (pronoun)
- This book is my favorite. (adjective)
- That is a really nice car. (pronoun)
- That car is really nice. (adjective)