What Is A Demonstrative Pronoun? Definition And Examples

What is a demonstrative pronoun?

A demonstrative pronoun is a pronoun used to point to specific people or things. For example, imagine there was a chair right next to you and a chair across the room from you. When talking about the chair nearer to you, you would say This is a chair. When talking about the chair far away from you, you would point to it and say That is a chair. In these sentences, the words this and that are demonstrative pronouns.

Demonstrative pronouns can be used to refer to either people, animals, or objects. For example,

  • People: This is my friend Lance.
  • Animals: That looks like a poisonous snake.
  • Objects: The cars in the front are worth more than those in the back.

A demonstrative pronoun can be used as either a subject or an object:

  • Subject: I think I need new shoes. These are pretty old.
  • Object: What is that?

List of demonstrative pronouns

Singular demonstrative pronouns

The words this and that are singular demonstrative pronouns. They are used to refer to a single person or thing. The word this is used to refer to things close by, and that is used to refer to things far away.

In addition to being used as a demonstrative pronoun, the word that has many different meanings and can be used as an adjective, adverb, or a conjunction in addition to a pronoun. For example, the word that can also be used as a relative pronoun that introduces relative clauses. You can learn more about this in our guide to relative pronouns.

Plural demonstrative pronouns

The words these and those are plural demonstrative pronouns. They are used to refer to more than one person or thing. These is used to refer to nearby things, and those is used to refer to faraway objects.

Examples of demonstrative pronouns

Let’s look at examples of how we use demonstrative pronouns in sentences.

  • This is a really weird-looking fruit.
  • I can’t believe she said that.
  • We are going to need boxes that are a lot bigger than these.
  • The restaurants here are a lot newer than those across town.

Want to know a secret? There are some grammar rules you don’t always have to follow.

Demonstrative pronouns vs. demonstrative adjectives

All four of the words this, that, these, and those are used as demonstrative pronouns and another part of speech called demonstrative adjectives. Usage highly overlaps as all four words keep their same meanings regardless of what part of speech they are used as. Most of the time, a sentence doesn’t even change its meaning when using a demonstrative pronoun or a demonstrative adjective. For example,

  • Pronoun: There are a lot of books in my room, but this is my favorite.
  • Adjective: There are a lot of books in my room, but this book is my favorite.

Both of the above sentences have the exact same meaning even though the word this is used as a pronoun in the first sentence and an adjective in the second.

So, how do you know if a word is being used as a demonstrative pronoun or as a demonstrative adjective? A pronoun is used in place of a noun, which means it is used as a subject or an object. Pronouns do NOT modify other words. On the other hand, an adjective is used to modify nouns or pronouns.

Putting it all together, the word that would be classified as a demonstrative pronoun in the following sentence:

  • That looks like fun. (That is the subject of the sentence. It is a demonstrative pronoun.)

However, that would be classified as a demonstrative adjective in the following sentence:

  • That game looks like fun. (That is modifying the noun game. It is a demonstrative adjective.)

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How to use demonstrative pronouns

Like all other pronouns, demonstrative pronouns must follow the same rules as nouns do. This means that they can function as a subject or object and must follow subject-verb agreement.

The words this and that use a singular verb, and these and those use a plural verb:

✅ Correct: That is an expensive car.
❌ Incorrect: That are an expensive car.

✅ Correct: Those look delicious.
❌ Incorrect: Those looks delicious.

In general, it is important to make it clear to a reader or listener what a demonstrative pronoun is referring to. For example,

Less clear: That is not a good idea. (What isn’t a good idea?)
More clear: You’re going to tell Cindy her singing is terrible? That is not a good idea. (Telling Cindy that you don’t like her singing is not a good idea.)

In everyday speech, we often use demonstrative pronouns without saying what they refer to. This is possible because we can point to things with our hands, or we can use context or body language to clarify what we are talking about. In some instances, there may only be one person or object in a room, and so further clarification is not needed. For example, you can say This is my new shirt while pointing to it with your finger. A listener can look at you and understand what you mean without needing any more descriptions or instructions.

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Now refine those grammar reflexes by looking at reflexive pronouns.

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