Demonstrative Pronouns | Definition, List & Examples

The four English demonstrative pronouns are this, that, these, and those. They are used to highlight something that was previously mentioned or that is clear from the context.

Demonstrative pronouns ‘demonstrate’ something; using them is the verbal equivalent of pointing at something or someone. They draw attention to the thing or person you’re referring to.

Demonstrative pronouns indicate number (singular or plural) and the relative distance of the thing being referred to.

Examples of the demonstrative pronouns
Near (proximal) Far (distal)
Singular This is my friend Jamie. I don’t know about that. Let’s discuss it tomorrow.
Plural I like all kinds of chocolates, but these are my favourites. Those are my notebooks on the desk.

demonstratives

Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

Be assured that you'll submit flawless writing. Upload your document to correct all your mistakes.

upload-your-document-ai-proofreader

Demonstrative pronouns vs demonstrative determiners

The demonstrative pronouns are identical to the demonstrative determiners (often called demonstrative adjectives instead). The same words this, that, these, and those are used for both grammatical functions in English. The pronouns and determiners together can be collectively referred to as demonstratives.

  • A demonstrative pronoun replaces a noun, meaning that it stands alone as the subject or object of the sentence.
  • A demonstrative determiner modifies a noun, meaning that it appears before the noun, telling you something about it.
Examples: Demonstrative pronouns and determiners
That is a misconception. I recommend reading this article to understand the topic better.

These are very good chocolates, but I still prefer these peanuts.

I’m afraid I can’t answer that question. This is a classified investigation.

The only proofreading tool specialized in correcting academic writing

The academic proofreading tool has been trained on 1000s of academic texts and by native English editors. Making it the most accurate and reliable proofreading tool for students.

Correct my document today

‘Near’ and ‘far’ demonstratives

Demonstratives both pronouns and determiners are used to indicate the distance of the thing or person being referred to from the person speaking or writing.

  • This (singular) and these (plural) are the ‘near’ (or proximal) demonstratives. They indicate someone or something that is relatively close.
  • That (singular) and those (plural) are the ‘far’ (or distal) demonstratives. They indicate someone or something that is relatively far.

This can refer to literal physical distance for example, contrasting the distance of two physical objects, people, or locations from the speaker or writer.

Examples: Demonstratives referring to physical distance
These flowers in my hand are tulips. Those, over on the windowsill, are roses.

No, this is my uncle Bill. That’s my dad over there.

That’s the Van Gogh Museum in the distance, and this building on our left is the concert hall.

It can also mean distance in time, when you’re contrasting the past or future with the present.

Example: Demonstratives referring to distance in time
That was an era of unprecedented economic prosperity, whereas these days, we’re living through a recession.

Finally, demonstratives may indicate a more abstract, figurative type of distance for example, referring to something that was previously said or to some idea, concept, or event.

Example: Demonstratives referring to figurative distance
She didn’t do anything wrong. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

This argument isn’t getting us anywhere. Let’s agree to disagree.

Two major events are often said to mark the beginning of modern European history. These are the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

Antecedents of demonstrative pronouns

The antecedent of a pronoun is the noun or phrase it refers to. The antecedent usually appears before the pronoun earlier in the sentence or in a previous sentence. But it can sometimes appear shortly after the pronoun.

Examples: Antecedents of demonstrative pronouns
I really like orange juice. I think that’s my favorite drink.

This is my fear: that we aren’t doing enough.

But demonstrative pronouns, because of the way they’re used, don’t always have explicitly named antecedents. When the implied antecedent is clear from the context, that isn’t a problem.

Example: Implied antecedents
Well, that was awkward. [antecedent = the meeting the speaker and the person they’re speaking to just left]

I want these! [antecedent = the toys the speaker is holding]

What’s that? [antecedent = the building in the distance that the speaker is pointing at]

In the context in which they were said, the above sentences would all be perfectly clear, although they are ambiguous without that context.

Ambiguous antecedents

There’s a problem if the antecedent of a demonstrative pronoun is unclear even in context.

It’s important (especially in academic writing) to make the antecedent completely clear, typically by writing the noun phrase you’re referring to in addition to or instead of the demonstrative or by rephrasing to eliminate any confusion.

  • The income gap between rich and poor has continued to widen over the past decade, contrary to mainstream economists’ predictions. This indicates that new models are required to understand this.
  • The income gap between rich and poor has continued to widen over the past decade, contrary to mainstream economists’ predictions. The disparity between theory and reality indicates that new models are required to understand this trend.
  • The income gap between rich and poor has continued to widen over the past decade. This is contrary to mainstream economists’ predictions, which indicates that new models are required to understand the widening gap.

Demonstratives vs relative pronouns

As well as being a demonstrative, the word that can also be used as a relative pronoun. Relative pronouns are used to introduce relative clauses phrases that provide more information about the preceding noun.

Example: ‘That’ as a relative pronoun
That was the last thing that I expected!

The other demonstratives (this, these, and those) are not used as relative pronouns.

The only proofreading tool specialized in correcting academic writing

The academic proofreading tool has been trained on 1000s of academic texts and by native English editors. Making it the most accurate and reliable proofreading tool for students.

Correct my document today

Frequently asked questions

What is a demonstrative pronoun?

A demonstrative pronoun is a word used to stand in for a noun. They are used to point to something or someone specific (e.g., ‘this is my sister’).

The English demonstrative pronouns are this, that, these, and those. This and these indicate something relatively close to you, while that and those indicate something farther away.

What are demonstrative adjectives?

Demonstrative adjectives (often categorised as demonstrative determiners instead in more modern grammars) are words used before nouns to indicate their relative distance (literal or figurative) from the speaker or writer (e.g., ‘I like this hat better than that one’).

The English demonstrative adjectives/determiners are this, that, these, and those. This and these indicate something relatively close to you, whereas that and those indicate something farther away. The same words are used as demonstrative pronouns.

What is the definition of a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word that stands in for a noun. Like nouns, pronouns refer to people, things, concepts, or places. Most sentences contain at least one noun or pronoun.

A pronoun can serve as the subject or object in a sentence, and it will usually refer back (or sometimes forward) to an antecedent the noun that the pronoun stands in for. Pronouns are used to avoid the need to repeat the same nouns over and over.

Sources for this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

This Scribbr article

Caulfield, J. (2023, November 27). Demonstrative Pronouns | Definition, List & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 14 May 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/nouns/demonstrative-pronoun/

Sources

Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. Oxford University Press.

Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Garner, B. A. (2016). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Is this article helpful?
Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.