Demonstrative in Grammar

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

The four demonstratives in English.

In grammar, a demonstrative is a determiner or a pronoun that points to a particular noun or to the noun it replaces. There are four demonstratives in English: the "near" demonstratives this and these, and the "far" demonstratives that and those. This and that are singular; these and those are plural.

A demonstrative pronoun distinguishes its antecedent from similar things. (For example, "Let me pick out the books.

I want these, not those.") When a demonstrative comes before a noun, it's sometimes called a demonstrative adjective or a demonstrative determiner ("Son, take this bat and hit that ball out of the park").

Etymology
From the Latin, "show, warn"

Examples and Observations

  • Demonstrative Determiners or Adjectives
    This movie is boring.
    That idea is crazy.
    These brownies are delicious.
    Those children are hungry.
  • Demonstrative Pronouns
    Here's a copy of the plan. Study this carefully.
    I met her on a rainy afternoon in September. That was the best day of my life.
    Your notes are worthless. Read these instead.
    The rolls I brought are fresh. Those are stale.
  • "In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri."
    (Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979
  • "Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand."
    (Kurt Vonnegut
  • "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure."
    (Mark Twain
  • "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
    (Mark Twain)
  • "The variety of items at a prepared-food counter or salad bar encourages you to sample a little of this and a lot of that (an 'eat more' strategy), but paying for them by the pound helps curb that tendency."
    (Marion Nestle, What to Eat. North Point Pres, 2008
  • "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them . . . well, I have others."
    (Groucho Marx
  • "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
    (William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, III.ii)
  • "More children are born poor today than thirty years ago. . . . These children and those responsible for raising them must have appropriate support and services if the growth of childhood poverty is to be reversed."
    (Cynthia Jones Neal, "Family Issues in Welfare Reform." Welfare in America, ed. by S.W. Carlsonm-Thies and J.V. Skillen. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996

Determiners and Their Antecedents

"Like other determiner classes, the demonstrative pronoun must replace or stand for a clearly stated antecedent. In the following example, that does not refer to 'solar energy'; it has no clear antecedent:

Our contractor is obviously skeptical about solar energy. That doesn't surprise me.

Such sentences are not uncommon in speech, nor are they ungrammatical. But when a this or that has no specific antecedent, the writer can usually improve the sentence by providing a noun headword for the demonstrative pronoun--by turning the pronoun into a determiner:

Our contractor is obviously skeptical about solar energy. That attitude (or His attitude) doesn't surprise me.

A combination of the two sentences would also be an improvement over the vague use of that."
(Martha Kolln, Understanding English Grammar. Allyn & Bacon, 1998)

The Lighter Side of Demonstratives

Q: What's the meaning of this?
A: Oh, it's a pronoun.

Pronunciation: di-MONS-tra-tif

Also Known As: demonstrative determiner

Etymology
From the Latin, "show, warn"

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Demonstrative in Grammar." ThoughtCo, Apr. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-demonstrative-in-grammar-1690433. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 10). Demonstrative in Grammar. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-demonstrative-in-grammar-1690433 Nordquist, Richard. "Demonstrative in Grammar." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-demonstrative-in-grammar-1690433 (accessed January 21, 2018).