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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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?

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

Hello Laupytk,

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

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A question. Is it right to write: Who lives in those house? & Who are that people?(Meaning who those people are)??

Hello Andrea Smith,

No, those are not correct. We use 'that' with singular nouns and 'those' with plural nouns. The correct forms would therefore be as follows:

Who lives in those houses? or Who lives in that house?

Who are those people? or Who is that person?

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Could in the clause 'that things are' 'that' be a determiner or it is a conjunction? The original statement is 'I can nevertheless know quite a lot about how it appears to me that things are.'

Hello kanka

Strictly speaking, 'that' here is a complementiser, which is a kind of subordinating conjunction. It introduces the complement of the verb 'appear'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I have a question. This page says you can use "this" to introduce ourselves on the phone. On another page, "it" can alse serve as the same purpose. So, what's the difference? Thanks in advance.

Hello Wang Zijian,

There are many ways of introducing yourself on the phone and it is possible to use both 'this' and 'it' to introduce yourself. For example:

Hi. This is Peter.

Hi. It's Peter (here).

 

However, when we tell a third person who is calling we use 'it' rather than this:

Who are you talking to?

It's Peter. He wants to know if...

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Please help. which is the correct sentence? and Why? thankyousomuch a. what are these? b. What these are?

Hello Kimramin,

The first one is correct. The word order in simple wh-questions is wh-word ('what') + verb/auxiliary verb ('is') + predicate ('these').

See our Question forms page for a more detailed explanation.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, What is the difference between using it and that on phone in example Hello, this is David, Can I speak to Sally? Can I say Hello, It's David .... istead of this ?

Hello asmaa,

Yes, 'it's' is also commonly used here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

uhm, "english vocab and grammar" include grammar like this lesson and where can I find the vocab section? sorry if this question aren't relevant to this lesson
Hi There, About uncountable nouns, we have to use plural or singular? Example This, That advice or These, Those advice Thank You Franz Vegetarian