Demonstrative pronouns in English

There are the following demonstrative pronouns in English:

  • Singular
  • this
  • that
  • Plural
  • these
  • those

Notice the difference between demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives. The first ones stand alone whereas the second qualify a noun.

That looks interesting. (demonstrative pronoun)
That book looks interesting. (demonstrative adjective)
Is this your wife? (demonstrative pronoun)
This is Tom Brown.
This is Tom Brown and Mrs Smith.
(Notice that even if you introduce more than one person you use this.


The following pronouns make a group of demonstratives: this, that
and their equivalents in the plural: these, those.


The demonstratives function both as pronouns:
This is my book.
These are my handbags. and as determiners:
That car was not expensive.
Those cars were not expensive.

This and these

This and these refer to an object or objects which are near the speaker:
I know this boy. ('the boy who is near me')
I'm fond of these CDs. ('the CDs which are near me').

That and those

That and those refer to an object or objects that are farther away from the speaker:
I like that boy. ('the boy who is over there').
I'm fond of those CDs. ('the CDs which are over there').


Personal and non-personal reference

If the demonstrative pronouns are used as subject, they may have either personal or non-personal reference:
This/that boy is tall.
This /that is a tall boy.
This/that pencil is long.
This/that is a long pencil.

Non-personal reference

If the demonstrative pronouns are used in other than subject function, they may only have non-personal reference. It means that the noun following the demonstrative pronoun should refer to things and only then it is possible to omit the noun:
I will talk to this girl.
I will sell these CDs.
I will sell these.


This and these

This and these are used in the following:

a) To denote backward reference:
I heard our lecture has been cancelled. If this is so, I shall have a swim.

b) To indicate forward reference:
Listen to this! Our lecture has been cancelled.

That and those

That and those are used in the following:

To denote backward referece:
A: Tom was here last week. B: Oh, I didn't know that.

To express an emotive rejection:
I came across that horrible guy.

In such expressions as:
The capital of France is more populated than that ( = the capital) of Greece.
The lakes of Finland are bigger than those ( = the lakes) of Austria.