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Demonstrative Pronoun

The forms of the demonstrative pronoun in English are this, that, these, and those. You use these words to point at objects in the world, depending on whether they are near or far from your body, and also depending on whether there is one object or more than one object.

The demonstrative pronoun is different from the demonstrative adjective because whereas the latter qualifies a noun, the former just replaces the relevant noun altogether.  

Variety in pronouns

"Are you interested in learning more about the demonstrative pronoun? The purpose of this web page is to help you in this regard. We hope that sounds good to you." 

In just the previous sentence, the word "that" actually serves as a demonstrative pronoun, referring to "purpose". 

This is because the demonstrative pronoun just refers to certain words (mainly "this", "that", "these", and "those") that take the place of another noun. 

Demonstrative Pronouns - Rules and examples

Here is an example of a demonstrative pronoun being used correctly in a sentence. 

"He walked into the kitchen and smelled the dinner she was making; and he felt moved to say, 'That smells wonderful.'" 

In this sentence, "that" takes the place of the smell of the dinner. 

Now, here is an example of the demonstrative pronoun being used incorrectly

"The man looked across the supermarket at the apples and remarked that these would be good ingredients for a pie." 

The word "these" is the wrong demonstrative pronoun here, insofar as the man is pointing at something that is relatively far away from him. 

In case you are still a little confused, here are a couple guidelines that you can follow in order to make sure that you are using the demonstrative pronoun in a correct way. 

  1. Be careful to not confuse the demonstrative pronoun with the demonstrative adjective. The same words are generally used in both cases. But whereas the demonstrative adjective is followed by a noun, the demonstrative pronoun takes the place of the noun
  2. Generally, when you use a demonstrative pronoun, it is as if you are pointing at an object and using a pronoun instead of naming the object. Imagine yourself physically pointing at something and saying "that"; then you will have a good idea of how a demonstrative pronoun works. 

3. In order to know which demonstrative pronoun to use, first think about whether your object is plural or singular; and then think about whether it is very near to you or farther away. This cross results in the four primary forms of the demonstrative pronoun. 

Demonstrative pronouns often misused and overused

The demonstrative pronoun is most useful in actual physical situations, or when developing characters who are in physical situations. This is because it is difficult to use the demonstrative pronoun without imagining some kind of spatial context for their use.

In fact, whether you are using a correct or incorrect demonstrative pronoun often depends on nothing more than the relative distance between you and the object you are talking about: if it is close at hand, you would say "this", whereas if it is farther away, you would need to say "that". 

In academic writing, the demonstrative pronoun may primarily be used in the course of an argument when you are referring to claims that you have just previously addressed. For example, you might say that Author A makes the argument that X, Y, and Z are true—but that "this" is clearly false. In this case, the demonstrative pronoun "this" would stand in for the noun "argument".

Even this, though, could be understood in somewhat spatial terms. It is as though you were holding up the argument in your hand in much the same way that you would hold up an apple, and then saying, "This is false."  

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