Learn what demonstrative adjectives are and how to use them with a helpful infographic.
What is a Demonstrative Adjective?
Demonstrative adjectives are used to indicate specific people, places and things (nouns). They are modifiers and should not be confused with demonstrative pronouns, which will be discussed later.
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This and That
This pair of adjectives can be used for any singular noun and indicates distance from the speaker. “This” specifies a noun nearby while “that” points to something farther away.
“This child is looking for her mother.”
“I enjoy visiting this city.”
“Take this cookie to your boss.”
“That child looks lost.”
“I will visit that city in the summer.”
“I was going to take that cookie you ate to my boss.”
These and Those
This pair is like the first but is reserved for plural nouns. “These” shows nouns close to the speaker and “those” indicates nouns farther away.
“These children can’t find their mother.”
“I am visiting these communities for the next two weeks.”
“Don’t eat these cookies, they are for my boss.”
“Those children are waiting for their mother.”
“A tour bus will take me to those cities.”
“You ate those cookies even after I told you not to.”
The above words can be used in place of the words they modify; this changes them into demonstrative pronouns (pronouns are words such as he, she or it). Of course, this only works when the reader knows what the writer is referring to or things become confusing. The same rules of distance apply.
“Take this with you.”
“The dog will eat that if you leave it there.”
“I don’t like these, they are creepy.”
“Those will bite; don’t try to pet them.”
This and these are close, that and those are farther away. This and that are singular, these and those are plural. Demonstrative adjectives become demonstrative pronouns when replacing the nouns they point to.
This and That, These and Those
Each pair is useful for comparison and they are frequently used together; as always, nearness to the speaker is indicated. A demonstrative adjective can also be combined with a demonstrative pronoun in the same sentence to keep repetition or “wordiness” down.
“This is my cookie and that is yours.”
“These cookies taste better than those.”
Another way to avoid repetition when using this, that, these and those is to replace a previously mentioned noun with the word “one.” It is never used for “non-count” (uncountable) nouns like snow, sand or hay (it is just weird to say, “I shoveled this snow but did not shovel that one”). In the following example, both sentences are correct but the second is less wordy and feels less awkward.
Clumsy: “I would rather eat this cookie than that cookie.”
Better: “I would rather eat this cookie than that one.”
Where the nouns are already clear, “one” can replace both.
“This one is mine and that one is yours.”
“One is mine and one is yours.”
“I intend to eat all of these cookies: this one, that one, those over by the toaster and all of yours, too.”
There are other uses for these words (and even an idiom or two). Do you know any?