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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

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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

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Replies with that's 2

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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

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Comments

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

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?

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.

"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

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.

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