Are you looking to learn more about demonstrative adjectives? If so, you've come to the right place. This article will teach you what you need to know to understand and use them in your writing.
This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.
Demonstrative adjectives are words you can use to express when you want to let your reader know how near or far something is in either space or time.
Demonstrative adjectives are no different. They're simply a category of adjectives.
Other categories include:
The four demonstrative adjectives—also known as demonstrative determiners—are:
Which of the four you use will depend on two things: proximity and singularity vs plurality. 'This' and 'these' indicate that something is close, while 'that' and 'those' indicate something is further away.
Now that we've covered the basics of demonstrative adjectives, let's go into a little more depth. There are a few things you should know about demonstrative adjectives.
First of all, when we talk about something being close or far away, what do we mean?
Interestingly, this can refer to both time and space. We'll start with the more obvious one.
This pen isn't working. Could you pass me that one?
Using the adjective 'this' to refer to the pen that isn't working tells us, the reader, that the defective pen is the one the speaker is holding or that it's right in front of them. Because they used 'that' to talk about the other pen—the one they want—we can deduct that one is further away, perhaps at the other end of the table.
What if you're referring to more than one object simultaneously? Then the same principle applies, but you use 'these' and 'those' instead.
These pens aren't working. Could you pass me those ones?
But as I mentioned earlier, you can also use demonstrative adjectives to talk about a position in time. As with objects, you can talk about events that are happening now or recently using 'this' and 'these.'
This has been the best vacation I've ever had. It was even better than that time we went to Mykonos.
We assume the vacation has just ended. Perhaps the speaker just returned home, or they are at the airport waiting for their flight home. The best holiday they have ever had is the one they just had, and we know that because they used 'this.' The vacation in Mykonos was further back in time; we know this because they used 'that.'
Use 'these' and 'those' to discuss plural time markers.
What are you upto these days?
Those were the good days.
The other role demonstrative adjectives perform is to help with specificity. Just like the definite article 'the,' they help indicate that the thing being talked about is something specific. Demonstrative adjectives help show that you aren't just talking about any painting, flowers, or another noun. They allow you to be more specific, so there's no room for error in interpreting what you mean.
Look at the difference between the two following sentences:
I love looking at paintings.
I love looking at these paintings.
The first sentence, which doesn't use a demonstrative adjective, indicates that the writer enjoys looking at paintings in general—probably as a hobby. The second sentence shows that they enjoy looking at the specific paintings that are in front of them at that moment.
When you use demonstrative adjectives, you must be purposeful about where in the sentence you place them. There's a specific order to follow. Demonstrative adjectives always come first in a noun phrase.
This is for two reasons.
I've got a date with man this. ❌
I've got a date with this man. ✅
Dog that is so cute. ❌
That dog is so cute. ✅
Can you help me hang posters these on the wall? ❌
Can you help me hang these posters on the wall? ✅
I ordered supplements those you recommended. ❌
I ordered those supplements you recommended. ✅
Demonstrative adjectives stand out in many ways, one of them being they can also double up as demonstrative pronouns. As you may know, pronouns replace nouns, so 'this,' 'that,' 'this, and 'those' can be found after a noun in a sentence if they are indeed replacing that noun later on.
I ordered the supplements you recommended; those with L-Theanine in them.
Here, the word 'those' functions as a pronoun and replaces the word 'supplements.' That's why it's used alone instead of before a noun.
Here are some more examples of these four words functioning as pronouns:
This is a very difficult situaton.
How do you know that is true?
These are my brothers.
On top of this, the word 'that' can be used as a conjunction or an adverb:
He told me that he was excited. (conjunction)
I didn't think the show was all that great. (adverb)
The other thing that makes demonstrative adjectives stand out is that, unlike most adjectives, they don't have a comparative or superlative form.
Comparative and superlative adjectives are used to make comparisons. Most adjectives have a comparative and superlative form.
Here are some examples:
Because demonstrative adjectives don't point towards identifying features, they can't be used to compare. Something can't be more 'this' or 'that' than another.
That concludes this article on demonstrative adjectives. I hope you found it helpful.
Let's summarize what we've learned:
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