What Is a Demonstrative Adjective? A Simple Explanation

A demonstrative adjective modifies a noun or pronoun in a sentence while emphasizing its importance. This and that are demonstrative adjectives that indicate which noun or pronoun you are referring to in a sentence. Keep reading to see common demonstrative adjectives in action, as well as demonstrative pairs and other words that function as demonstrative pronouns.

Demonstrative Adjective Examples Demonstrative Adjective Examples
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Common Demonstrative Adjectives

The most common demonstrative adjectives are this, that, these and those. The demonstrative adjective in a sentence will come just before a noun or pronoun and tell you which one it is specifically modifying. You choose the correct demonstrative pronoun by identifying its location (near or far from you) and how many there are (singular or plural).

The primary singular forms of demonstrative adjectives are:

  • this - used for a person or thing that is nearby or current (This day could not get any better!)
  • that - used for a person or thing that is further away (That house across the street is so adorable.)

The primary plural forms of demonstrative adjectives are:

  • these - used for more than one thing that’s nearby (These shoes fit me very well.)
  • those - used for more than one thing that’s farther away (Those boots are too expensive.)

Yon and yonder are less common demonstrative adjectives. While they’re not used much in modern English, you’re bound to come across them in literature, such as in the famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “What light through yonder window breaks?” They both refer to a thing or things at a distance and can be used as either plural or singular adjectives.

Examples of Demonstrative Adjectives

While it may seem tricky to know which demonstrative adjective to use, it's more intuitive than it seems. Check out these examples of demonstrative adjectives in a sentence to see how easy it can be.

  • Did you want this piece of cake or that one? ("This piece of cake" is closer to the speaker than "that one.")
  • Do those dogs live here? ("Those dogs" are far away from the speaker.)
  • Yes, these dogs live here. ("These dogs" are close to the speaker.)
  • This book is my favorite. (The speaker is close to "this book.")
  • I've never read that book. (The speaker is far away from "that book.")
  • How much are these earrings? (The speaker is close to "these earrings.")
  • Those earrings cost $30. (The speaker is farther from "those earrings.")

Demonstrative Adjectives vs. Demonstrative Pronouns

This, that, these, and those are also demonstrative pronouns. So what's the difference between demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns? It all depends on how you use them. Demonstrative adjectives come before the noun they describe, while demonstrative pronouns replace the nouns they represent.

  • demonstrative adjective - Hand me that pencil, please.
  • demonstrative pronoun - Hand me that, please.
  • demonstrative adjective - Do you want to see this movie?
  • demonstrative pronoun - Do you want to see this?
  • demonstrative adjective - Look at those geese!
  • demonstrative pronoun - Look at those!
  • demonstrative adjective - These chips are too spicy for me.
  • demonstrative pronoun - These are too spicy for me.

When you use demonstrative pronouns, the noun you're replacing is either obvious or it's been stated before. If the noun is still present, you're using a demonstrative adjective.

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Can Numbers Be Demonstrative Adjectives?

Ordinal numbers (such as third, fourth or fifth) can act as demonstrative adjectives. They indicate which noun you are talking about, just like other demonstrative adjectives.

  • The first paycheck I received was for $500.
  • The seventh day of the week is Sunday.
  • In the late nineteenth century, the Civil War in the United States was fought.
  • After my third piece of pizza, I was stuffed.
  • For her fiftieth birthday party, we bought my mom a huge cake.

Cardinal numbers, which are regular numbers used for counting, are not considered demonstrative adjectives. When they indicate how many of an item there are ("two kittens" or "sixteen candles"), they are descriptive adjectives.

Defining Demonstratives

If you think about it, we use demonstrative adjectives often in our daily lives. They help us define our focus by identifying which item or person we are talking about. Now that you’re familiar with this grammatical concept, take a demonstrative adjective quiz to really test your knowledge.