Demonstrative Adjectives in English: Usage and Examples

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Demonstrative Adjectives are a vital aspect of English grammar that makes your sentences crystal. Think of them as your navigational tools in the vast sea of language, helping you pinpoint nouns with laser precision. By the end of this article, you’ll be confidently using words like “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those” to specify nouns in no time!

What Are Demonstrative Adjectives?

Demonstrative adjective definition:  Demonstrative adjectives are words that help us point to or specify which noun we’re talking about. Imagine you’re in a bakery, and you’re deciding which pastry to choose. You might say, “I’ll have this croissant, please.” In this case, “this” is the demonstrative adjective, and it tells the baker exactly which croissant you want.

List of Demonstrative Adjectives

  1. This – singular and close
  2. That – singular and distant  
  3. These – plural and close  
  4. Those – plural and  distant  

Demonstrative Adjectives vs. Demonstrative Pronouns

Before we go any further, let’s clear up a common source of confusion – the difference between demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns.

Demonstrative adjectives are words that modify nouns, providing more information about which specific noun you are referring to. They help you point out or specify a particular noun in a sentence. Demonstrative pronouns, on the other hand, are words that stand alone to replace nouns in a sentence. They take the place of nouns and function as the subject or object of the sentence.

Demonstrative Adjective Example: “I like those flowers.” (Here, “those” tells us which flowers are being referred to.)

Demonstrative Pronoun Example: “I like those. They’re beautiful.” (Here, “those” replaces the noun “flowers.”)

The table below provides a concise overview of the key differences between demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns, making it easier to understand the distinct functions of these adjectives in English grammar.

AspectDemonstrative AdjectivesDemonstrative Pronouns
FunctionModify nounsReplace nouns
UsageUsed with nounsStand alone
Position in a SentencePrecede the nounCan function as the subject or object of a sentence
Examples“I like this book.” (modifies the noun “book”)“I like that.” (replaces the noun “book”)
“Give me those apples.” (modifies the noun “apples”)“These are my shoes.” (replaces the noun “shoes”)
Common Demonstrative Words“this,” “that,” “these,” “those”“this,” “that,” “these,” “those”

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s look at how to use demonstrative adjectives effectively.

How to Use Demonstrative Adjectives

1. “This” and “That”

  • “This” is used with singular nouns that are close to you or within your immediate proximity. It implies that the noun is near in space or time.
    • Example 1: “I love this book.” (The book is close to the speaker.)
    • Example 2: “Can you pass this pen to her?” (The pen is close to the speaker.)
  • “That” is used with singular nouns that are farther away or not within your immediate reach. It implies that the noun is distant in space or time.
    • Example 1: “I can’t believe I left that umbrella at home.” (The umbrella is not nearby.)
    • Example 2: “Look at that mountain in the distance.” (The mountain is far away.)

2. “These” and “Those”

  • “These” is used with plural nouns that are close to you or within your immediate proximity.
    • Example 1: “I want to buy these shoes.” (The shoes are near the speaker.)
    • Example 2: “Please pass me these cookies.” (The cookies are close by.)
  • “Those” is used with plural nouns that are farther away or not within your immediate reach.
    • Example 1: “Can you sell me those broken chairs?” (The chairs are not nearby.)
    • Example 2: “Look at those kids playing in the park.” (The birds are in the distance.)

3. Agreement in Gender and Number

In English, demonstrative adjectives do not change for gender but do change for number (singular or plural). Here’s how the agreement works:

  • Demonstrative adjectives remain the same for gender. Unlike some other languages, English doesn’t have gender-specific forms for demonstrative adjectives.
    • Example: “I like this book”, “I like this boy”, “I like this girl”, (whether the noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter, “this” remains the same).
  • Demonstrative adjectives change for number to match the noun’s plurality.
    • Example (Singular): “I want this cupcake.” (One cupcake)
    • Example (Plural): “I want these cupcakes.” (Multiple cupcakes)

Examples of Demonstrative Adjectives in Sentences

Examples are a great way to solidify your understanding of how demonstrative adjectives work in real sentences. Here are several examples that showcase the use of demonstrative adjectives in various contexts:

  1. Shopping for Groceries:
    • “Can you pass me those green apples?” (Pointing to specific apples that are not close to the speaker.)
  2. Choosing an Outfit:
    • “I like this dress, but those shoes are even better.” (Describing clothing items, emphasizing the proximity and comparison between the dress and the shoes.)
  3. Watching a Movie:
    • “Is that your favorite scene?” (Pointing to a particular scene in a movie that is not close to the speaker.)
  4. Talking About a Family Portrait:
    • “Here’s a picture of my family. These are my parents, and those are my siblings.” (Using demonstrative adjectives to identify family members in a photo.)
  5. Exploring a New City:
    • “I love this café, but that museum across the street looks interesting too.” (Discussing nearby places and places in the distance.)
  6. Identifying Objects in a Room:
    • “In this room, that table lamp is my favorite. These paintings on the wall are my own creations.” (Using demonstrative adjectives to point out specific objects within a room.)
  7. Discussing Hobbies:
    • “I collect rare coins, and these coins here are the most valuable ones. I’m planning to add those coins from the auction to my collection.” (Talking about a coin collection and distinguishing between coins on hand and those being acquired.)

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Let’s go over some common mistakes to avoid when using demonstrative adjectives in English. Being aware of these errors will help you use demonstrative adjectives more accurately and effectively:

1. Confusing “This” and “These,” “That” and “Those”: One of the most frequent errors is mixing up singular and plural forms. Remember:

  • “This” and “That” are used with singular nouns.
  • We use “These” and “Those” with plural nouns.

Mistake: “I like those dress.”

Correction: “I like that dress.” (if singular) or “I like those dresses.” (if plural)

2. Using Demonstrative Adjectives Without Nouns: Demonstrative adjectives should always be followed by a noun. Avoid using them as standalone words unless the context clearly identifies the noun being referred to.

Mistake: “I want this, please.”

Correction: “I want this book, please.”

3. Incorrectly Matching Demonstrative Adjectives with Nouns: Make sure that the demonstrative adjective matches the noun it modifies in terms of proximity (near or far) and number (singular or plural).

Mistake: “Give me this apples.”

Correction: “Give me these apples.” (if plural)

Demonstrative Adjectives Exercise

Choose the correct demonstrative adjective (this, that, these, or those) to complete each sentence.

  1. ________ cake is delicious. (singular, close)
  2. I can’t believe I left ________ keys at home. (singular, distant)
  3. Please pass me ________ pencils. (plural, close)
  4. Can you see ________ birds in the sky? (plural, distant)
  5. ________ jacket is mine. (singular, close)
  6. ________ dogs are friendly. (plural, distant)
  7. I’m interested in buying ________ watch. (singular, close)
  8. ________ people over there are waving at us. (plural, distant)
  9. I want to visit ________ museum. (singular, close)
  10. ________ cookies are tasty. (plural, close)

Answer Key

  1. This cake is delicious.
  2. I can’t believe I left those keys at home.
  3. Please pass me these pencils.
  4. Can you see those birds in the sky?
  5. This jacket is mine.
  6. Those dogs are friendly.
  7. I’m interested in buying this watch.
  8. Those people over there are waving at us.
  9. I want to visit that museum.
  10. These cookies are tasty.

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