Demonstratives

Level: beginner

this and these

We use this (singular) and these (plural) as pronouns:

  • to talk about people or things near us:

This is a nice cup of tea.
Whose shoes are these?

  • to introduce people:

This is Janet.
These are my friends John and Michael.

Be careful!

We say, This is John and this is Michael. (NOT These are John and Michael.)

  • to begin a conversation on the phone:

Hello, this is David. Can I speak to Sally?

that and those

We use that (singular) and those (plural) as pronouns to talk about things that are not near us:

What's that?
Those are very expensive shoes.
This is our house, and that's Rebecca's house over there.

Demonstratives

MultipleChoice_MTU4MjM=

We also use that to reply to something someone has said:

'Shall we go to the cinema?'  'Yes, that’s a good idea.'
'I've got a new job.'  'That's great.'
'I'm very tired.'  'Why is that?'

Replies with that's 1

Matching_MTU4MjQ=

Replies with that's 2

GapFillTyping_MTU4NDM=

With nouns

We can also use this, these, that and those with nouns. We use this and these for people or things near us:

We have lived in this house for twenty years.
Have you read all of these books?

and that and those for people or things that are not near us:

Who lives in that house?
Who are those people?

Demonstratives with nouns

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTU4NDQ=

 

Average
Average: 4.3 (20 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

Submitted by David74 on Fri, 12/07/2024 - 03:08

Permalink

Can you please help with the following two questions: 

 

Situation 1 (approaching a park)

Look! Those are seven trees. 

Question: Is "Those are seven trees." grammatically correct? It sounds wrong to me, but when I replace "seven" with different adjectives, it sounds fine (Look! Those are pine trees. / Look! Those are tall trees!). Logically, each of the trees can be "pine" or "tall" but each of them cannot be "seven."  But that is not really a grammatical reason for why it doesn't work. 

 

Situation 2 (looking at a table at a garage sale)

A: What are they?

B: They're three alarm clocks. 

Question: Similar with the above. Is B's reply grammatically correct? "They're alarm clocks." makes sense to me, but not "They're three alarm clocks." But I cannot come up with a reason for why the original sentence is wrong. 

Thanks a lot. 

 

Hello David74,

The question here is not really about grammar. Grammar is the rules which we use to create sentences but a grammatical sentence can be senseless in the real world if we use the wrong lexis or create a sentence which does not fit our communicative needs.

When we want to talk about the existence of something in the world and remark upon it we use there is or there are rather than it is or they are:

Look! There's an old castle on that hill!

However, when we want to describe something that we already know exists or when we are looking for something specific that is already known then we can other forms like it is, this is, they are, those are etc. You need to have a context which makes this possible.

She said we should look for five trees by the road and turn left after them.

Over there - see? 

No, those are four trees not five. Keep looking.

It's tricky with a number like this as an appropriate context is very unlikely to occur, but it's possible.

 

The second example is similar - it's a question of context:

What are those things on the shelf over there? Can you make them out?

They're three alarm clocks, I think.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khabir Nursha on Fri, 05/01/2024 - 03:23

Permalink

Hello!
Can ‘those’ be used as a near equivalent of the zero article, that is, can it be used when referring to a noun for the first time? Let’s say:

1) In high school, I used to like girls who had good taste in music. (zero article)
2) In high school, I used to like those girls who had good taste in music. (those)
‘Those’ isn’t equivalent to ‘the’ in such cases, is it?

Because if ‘the’ were used, it would mean I’m referring to the group of girls who are already known to the reader/hearer, while in 2) I’m actually referring to some unspecified girls, which makes 2) similar to 1)?

Hi Khabir Nursha,

Actually, all of these sentences specify or define the particular group of girls: girls who had good taste in music. Referring to something already known to the reader/hearer is one way of specifying/defining the noun, but there are other ways too, such as adding additional information such as a defining relative clause (who had good taste in music). So, both 1 and 2 specify which particular girls the speaker means, and so does using those. You could say any of these variations, whether this is the first reference to the girls or not, and they are all specific/defining.

  • I used to like girls who had good taste in music.
  • I used to like the girls who had good taste in music.
  • I used to like those girls who had good taste in music.

There is however a difference in emphasis. Saying "those girls who ..." seems to indicate that particular group and the limitation in the liking with more force. Perhaps a speaker might say this if they want to suggest a meaning of "only those girls", for example.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thank you very much, Jonathan. I truly appreciate your answer.

Only one question, If I can. I guess my original question was expressed clumsily. I'm actually only interested in the difference between 'the' and 'those' in terms of referring to something for the first time and not terms of specification as such (I'm aware that both are used to specify a referent). Here's the thing. Let's say I'm talking about that group of girls for the first time. They're still not known to the person I'm talking to. In this case 'the girls' would be wrong, for obvious reasons. It is only in a second mention that I could use it.
Would using 'those' be wrong in the same context (I used to like those girls who…)? Because to me it seems that 'those' (unlike 'the') is acceptable even when referring to something for the first time and when the referent is still unknown to the hearer. I know it still specifies the group, but that's not of my interest.

Thank you again.

Hi Khabir Nursha,

Thanks for your question!

Actually, no - it is fine to say I used to like the girls who had good taste in music, even if this is the first time you ever mention the girls, and they are not known to the reader/listener. It doesn't only have to be the second mention. That's because the relative clause clearly defines the particular girls for the reader/listener, so the can be used. It doesn't matter whether they are known to the reader/listener at the first mention or not - referring to something already known is one way of defining the referent, while here the referent is defined in another way, i.e. by the relative clause. The point is that the referent is indeed defined, so the specification is in fact very relevant here.

However, it would be incorrect to say only I used to like the girls (without any other defining information) the first time you mention the girls, because "the girls" by itself is not enough to define the girls for the reader/listener.

The same is true for using those for the first mention. You could say I used to like those girls who had good taste in music, but not I used to like those girls (without any other defining information).

In short - you can use both the or those when you mention a noun for the first time, if there is some other defining information with it.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by milapinks on Sun, 15/10/2023 - 03:08

Permalink

what if something is neither close nor far away? for example, what if I'm trying to talk about something more abstract like someone else's thoughts or feelings? "she doesn't need to change >that< part of herself" or "betty never believed she was capable of any of >those< things" would be correct?

Hello milapinks,

The concept of close and far in cases like this is more about psychological distance. I would say 'that' or 'those' is much more likely here. In fact, 'that' and 'those' are more common generally when we are talking about abstract concepts.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Mon, 30/01/2023 - 10:49

Permalink

Hello!

Could you please explain the difference between "They are earphones" and "These are earphones". When do you use "they", not "these" or "those" to talk about things?

I'm very grateful for the job you are doing and thank you very much for anwering this post beforehand!

Hello howtosay_

In short, 'they' is neutral and 'these' is more emphatic. There are too many possible situations to explain them all, but, for example, you'd say 'These are earphones' if you were pointing some earphones and explaining the word to someone who's learning English. 'these' shows you're focusing on them.

'They're earphones' could be the answer to a question like 'What are those?' while pointing at earphones. 'those' already put focus on the object, so you can just use 'they' in your answer.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by ajmal.sahak on Mon, 09/01/2023 - 10:13

Permalink

Hello,
As we can use "that" to point to someone/something e.g
"Who is that" "that is Peter"
so could we use that instead of "He" in cases like
"that is writing"? Spouse, we are in one room.
Regards.

Hello ajmal.sahak,

No, I'm afraid we don't use 'that' in the way you describe. You would need to say 'He is writing' or 'She is writing' in this situation.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdallah Mo on Sun, 18/12/2022 - 12:36

Permalink

Hi there, can I use there or those for similar sentence. for example I am revering to group of people who arrived at a place. " a lot of new faces were seen coming to the party"
a- I think those people are from X village.
b- I think these people are from X village

Thanks in advance for helping us improve our English communication skills.

Hello Abdallah Mo,

In theory, both are possible, but in most cases a) is the correct form. In a very specific context when the speaker views these people in a certain way, b) could work, but this would be a fairly unusual case.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Pratik167 on Mon, 14/02/2022 - 15:31

Permalink

Hello,
In this sentence,
We say, This is John and this is Michael. (NOT These are John and Michael.)

Instead is it correct to say, They are John and Michael.

Hi Pratik167,

Grammatically, that is fine. But saying They are ... means you are not introducing them. You are simply describing them.

If you want to introduce somebody (i.e., present somebody to somebody else in a social situation, so that they can meet each other), This is ... is the usual phrase.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Mon, 26/07/2021 - 12:44

Permalink
Hello, The 3rd question in the exercise of Demonstratives with nouns says, I like-----earrings you're wearing. so my question is, can I use either these or those, or I can only use those as indicated in the exercise's answer sheet?
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 26/07/2021 - 15:02

In reply to by Maahir

Permalink

Hello Maahir,

Please note that the sentence you're asking about precedes the question 'Were they a present?' This establishes a clear context, one in which the speaker is looking at the person they are speaking to. In this case, we can suppose that the speaker is referring to the earrings the other person is wearing. In this context, only 'those' is correct, since the earrings are closer to the listener than the speaker.

If the context were different, 'these' could be possible, but the fact that the sentence refers to 'you' means that most of the time 'those' is going to be best.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 07:40

In reply to by Laupytk

Permalink

Hello Laupytk,

I wouldn't recommend using 'those' in this way, but 'these' would be OK here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Crokong on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 05:27

Permalink
What does "that" mean in this context? That's most kind of you. Sometimes I've seen 'it' used instead of 'that' as well. What does it mean?

Hello Crokong,

In this sentence, that is an example of a reference device. The word refers to something we cannot see: it could be something in the previous sentence or it could something in the world such as an action which has just taken place. Without knowing the context it is impossible to say.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nicolettalee on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 02:16

Permalink
Hello, Could you please let me know which one below is correct? Situation: at the end of a business email 1. I hope this helps. 2. I hope it helps. 3. Hope this helps. 4. Hope it helps. 5. I hope this helps you. Any difference? And why? Thanks, Nicoletta
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 07:27

In reply to by nicolettalee

Permalink

Hello nicolettalee,

All of those are grammatically possible, though (2) is rather awkward and I would not use that one.

It's really a question of style and appropriacy. For a business letter a formal style is generally preferable, so I would suggest that (5) and (1) are the best choices. The others are rather informal so should be avoided unless the letter is intended to be informal.

Another, very polite, alternative would be this:

I hope this is helpful to you. Please let me know if you need anything else/anything more.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Todor on Thu, 28/05/2020 - 13:12

Permalink
Regarding the usage of "these" or "those" - In the famous BBC TV series, in an episode scene, Basel Faulty said to his Spanish servant "There is too much butter on those trays ". The trays are in the seevant's hands, very near and visible to both of them. Was it mistake,deliberately done to fulfil the next scene of confusion with Spanish language, or "those" is correctly used - if so - why?

Hello Todor

This is correct usage. There are some exceptions, but in general, the speaker will use 'these' to refer to things near them (not things near the listener) and 'those' to refer to things further away, or, in this case, in the hands of the listener.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

It was great help Kirk, thank you very much! To affirm my understanding, I would ask one more question : whether Basel Faultu wold have said " Those trays are not thoroughly arranged " or " These trays....." pointing to the trays, not to some objects placed on them?

Hello again Todor

I'm glad! Where the line is between 'these' and 'those' is sometimes a bit of a judgment call, but when there are two people, the speaker usually uses 'this' to refer to objects in their hands and 'those' to refer to objects in the other person's hands. 

In this case, since he is clearly pointing to trays in Manuel's hands, it would be very strange for Basil to use 'these' because they are clearly be closer to Manuel. 

Hope this helps.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by H_L on Fri, 01/05/2020 - 02:34

Permalink
Hello, Can you please explain why did we choose those and that in the following questions in the "Demonstratives with nouns" part? - I love those earrings you're wearing. Were they a present? - I like that shirt. It looks good on you. Of course, it works in these questions by the process of elimination, but I'm to talking to these people, and they are wearing a shirt/earrings, so they are near me. Why can't I use these and this instead?
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 01/05/2020 - 07:43

In reply to by H_L

Permalink

Hello H_L,

You could use this and these in your examples. Generally, that/those are used for things we perceive as more distant and this/these for things we perceive as closer. However, this perception is not a physical distance, but a psychological distance. It's really about whether I consider them to be mine or temporarily in my possession as opposed to considering them as belonging or being held by someone else.

For example, if I were touching the earrings, I would likely use these. If I were pointing to them in someone else's ears then I would likely say those.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Now I understand, I thought it was a physical distance, and I'll choose the demonstratives based on how near or far things/people are from me. Thank you.

Submitted by Ridg Wick on Wed, 04/03/2020 - 16:25

Permalink
"we use that to reply to someone something has said" why here have no preposition between someone and something in the above sentence.

Hello Ridg Wick,

You have the sentence confused. It should be '...something someone...', not '...someone something...'.

 

No preposition is needed in the sentence. It can be rephrased as follows:

We use that to reply to something someone has said.

We use that to reply to a thing (which) a person has said.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jovan18 on Wed, 12/02/2020 - 00:41

Permalink
Hi! I have a question. Is all these trouble, all these problem and all these concern are grammatically correct? We can use singular noun by its form but plural in meaning if uncountable/collective noun. Ahhhhhhh can't even deliver my point. Phew.

Hello Jovan18

It depends on whether the noun you are using is a count noun or an uncount noun.

If it is a count noun and it is plural, then the nouns and verb should also be plural, for example: 'All these problems', 'All these concerns'.

'concern' can also be an uncount noun, so 'All this concern' is also possible. 'trouble' is usually uncount and so 'All this trouble' is probably the form you want to use.

When the nouns are plural, you should use a plural verb ('All these problems are ...') and when they are uncount, the verb should be singular: 'All this trouble is ...'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jowy_123 on Wed, 11/09/2019 - 19:35

Permalink
Hi! I've got a question. It's possible to say These are a drum and a car. Thanks for you help

Hello Jowy_123

Yes, that is grammatically possible, though it might be better to say 'they' instead of 'these' -- without knowing the context it's difficult to say how correct they are in a specific situation.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marua on Thu, 15/11/2018 - 17:23

Permalink
Hi. I was wondering if I could use 'this' and 'that' intercheangeably in the next context: "I live in Germany, this/that means I'm German. For non-native speakers, there is always room for insecurities. I really appreciate your help. Thanks.
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Fri, 16/11/2018 - 09:45

In reply to by Marua

Permalink

Hi Marua,

People use both in this kind of situation, but there is a difference in use. We tend to use 'this' when we are going to explain what we mean in a more extended way and to use 'that' when we're making a short comment.

So, in your example, if you are about to explain more about what being German means, 'this' would probably be better. If you're going to speak about something else, then 'that' would probably be better.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by pencil on Mon, 22/10/2018 - 09:02

Permalink
In the previous section: It and They, it was written: We use it to talk about ourselves: • on the telephone: Hello. It’s George. Now in this section, this is also said to be used in a similar manner. Am I right? Both it or this can be used to introduce ourselves on phone. Please guide me. thanks in advance.

Hello pencil,

Yes, you have several options. All of the following are fine:

Hello. This is George.

Hello. It's George (here).

Hello. George here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shajing3724 on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 14:19

Permalink
Hello, I have a question: "Could you buy me __ (this / that)?" Anne asked, pointing to a toy in a catalog. In this sentence why should we use "this"? Why don't we use "that", as you mentioned when we talk about things not near us, we usually use that. Kind regards
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 20/06/2018 - 06:50

In reply to by shajing3724

Permalink

Hello shajing3724,

Generally, we use 'this' for things close to us, as you say. Anne is pointing at a toy in the catalogue and so it is close to her, visually speaking.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by TheMouseofAfte… on Fri, 16/03/2018 - 13:40

Permalink
In formal writing, is there a difference between this and that, or these and those? Which of the following should I use in a formal situation? I have a house. This property was bought twenty years ago. I have a house. That property was bought twenty years ago. I have a house. The property was bought twenty years ago.

Hello TheMouseofAfterTomorrow,

The meanings of determiners such as this/these and that/those do not change with the formality of the context. Generally, we use that/these (singular/plural) to refer to something which we consider closer to us in some way (physical distance, emotional distance and distance in time) and we use that/those to refer to something which is more distant.

If we are not trying to distinguish one house from another then we use the once it has been introduced, so 'the' would be appropriate in your example.

If we have two houses and we want to distinguish between them then we can use this and that:

I own two houses on this street. This one I inherited from my parents and that one across the road I bought two years ago.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lolopopo on Sat, 06/01/2018 - 14:12

Permalink
Hey I have a questions. So if I am referring to a situation that happened int he past. Which one do I use? 7th of February, the laboratory. These are the date and location of... OR 7th of February, the laboratory. Those were the data and location of....

Hello lolopopo,

You can use both 'this' or 'that' to refer back to something you just mentioned, with no difference in meaning. We tend to use 'this' more than 'that' when we have more to say about the matter, however. If your sentence merely explains the date and location of an event, then 'those' could be appropriate, but I would probably recommend 'these'. And if you go on to explain even more, then 'these' would also probably be better.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team