What Is a Demonstrative Pronoun?

Demonstrative pronouns are used to replace nouns in a sentence. Some of the same words that can be used as demonstrative pronouns, including this, that, these, those, and such, can also be used as demonstrative adjectives. Discover what you need to know to tell the difference between the two, and learn how to use demonstrative pronouns correctly.

example demonstrative pronoun boy eating candy example demonstrative pronoun boy eating candy
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Defining a Demonstrative Pronoun

A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun in a sentence. A demonstrative pronoun is a specific type of pronoun.

  • A demonstrative pronoun is used to replace a noun that has already been mentioned in conversation or a written work.
  • Speakers or writers will sometimes use a demonstrative pronoun to refer to the noun instead of repeating the noun in multiple sentences.
  • This is encouraged to avoid repetition, assuming that using a demonstrative pronoun won’t lead to confusion.

List of Demonstrative Pronouns

There are not many demonstrative pronouns in the English language, but their usage is common in spoken communication and writing.

  • this
  • that
  • these
  • those
  • such
  • none
  • neither

Demonstrative Pronoun Examples

Reviewing a few examples can help clarify what demonstrative pronouns are and how they function in language. In the example below, the demonstrative pronoun appears in bold. The noun(s) that the pronoun replaces is underlined.

  • Bob was late again. That boy is stressing me out.
  • I love apple pie and cherry pie. These are my favorite pies.
  • How did you know I wanted some candy? This really hits the spot.
  • I loved growing beets and tomatoes. Those were my gardening favorites.
  • I really love heavy metal music, but my dad does not. He will allow none to be played in the car.
  • I don’t like eggs or celery. Neither appeals to me.
  • Everything seems vague. Such is the reality of relationships.

Using a Demonstrative Pronoun

When talking to someone, you can easily clarify the meaning of a demonstrative pronoun by pointing or otherwise gesturing toward it, or your listener(s) will need to be looking at it as well. However, demonstrative pronouns aren’t only used in spoken communication. Context is important when using a demonstrative pronoun in writing.

  • Using a list in close proximity to (either before or after) "these" or "those" would be clear enough.

Example: "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings - these are a few of my favorite things."

  • You could refer to a description of an object, activity or situation as "this" or "that" if you do so immediately following the description.

Example: They make you wear rented shoes, you always smell bad when you leave, my thumb nail always breaks off, and I'm not good at it. That is why I hate bowling.

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Demonstrative Pronoun vs. Demonstrative Adjective

Are you wondering about the difference between demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives? Since some of the same demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those) can also be used as demonstrative adjectives, it can be challenging to tell the difference. The key lies with the sentence structure.

  • A demonstrative pronoun takes the place of a noun phrase that has already been mentioned. (It always comes after the noun.)
  • A demonstrative adjective modifies the noun and is always followed by the noun. (It always comes efore the noun.)

To illustrate, review some demonstrative adjectives that modify underlined nouns:

  • That food you’re cooking smells delicious.
  • Did you finally throw away that old t-shirt?
  • This bendy yoga pose really hurts.
  • Is this book yours or mine?
  • What is that frightening creature?
  • These pink cupcakes are my favorites.
  • I told you those old magazines were a fire hazard.

Which to Use: This, That, These, or Those?

Whether being used as a demonstrative pronoun or a demonstrative adjective, the words this, that, these, and those can be a bit confusing for speakers and writers. This and that are singular, while these and those are plural. That’s not the part that people usually find confusing. The difficult part lies with selecting which singular or plural pronoun is the right one. The answer lies with distance.

  • This (singular) and these (plural) should be used to replace or modify a noun that is in close proximity to the speaker
  • That (singular) and those (plural) should be used to replace or modify a noun that is far away, in terms of distance or time

Pronoun

Number

Distance

this

one

nearby, recent

that

one

far away, a long time ago

these

more than one

nearby, recent

those

more than one

far away, a long time ago

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Demonstrative Pronoun Exercise

Test your expertise by completing the following activity. Answer the questions without peeking ahead to see the answers. Once you have finished, check your work to see how you did!

Demonstrative Pronoun Activity Questions

Choose the correct answer for each item. Select (a) if the underlined word is a demonstrative pronoun. Select (b) if the underlined word is a demonstrative adjective

  1. Those roaches under our sink are totally gross.

    1. demonstrative pronoun
    2. demonstrative adjective
  2. I don’t think my vote really counts. Such is the way of the world.

    1. demonstrative pronoun
    2. demonstrative adjective
  3. These shoes smell disgusting; they’re just gross.

    1. demonstrative pronoun
    2. demonstrative adjective
  4. That is my gym bag. I thought I lost it.

    1. demonstrative pronoun
    2. demonstrative adjective
  5. I watched several old movies. Those old films are just incredible.

    1. demonstrative pronoun
    2. demonstrative adjective

Demonstrative Pronoun Activity Answers

Did you properly identify all the demonstrative pronouns?

  1. b
  2. a
  3. b
  4. b
  5. a

Another Way to Represent a Noun

A demonstrative pronoun just represents a noun that has already been brought up, without actually repeating the noun itself. It is a single demonstrative word that takes the place of a noun, a noun phrase, a string of noun phrases, an activity, or a situation. Whether used in written language or conversation, demonstrative pronouns help people get their point across while minimizing repetition of the same noun over and over again. To further expand your knowledge of correct pronoun usage, discover the rules for pronoun agreement.