How to use Demonstratives?

How to use Demonstratives?

In today’s free English lesson, our focus will be on demonstratives. I have noticed that many English learners struggle with the use of demonstratives, which results in mixing singular demonstratives with plural nouns. If you have problems with the use of demonstratives, here’s a free English lesson for you.

how to use demonstratives

In English, we differentiate between demonstrative determiners and demonstrative pronouns. As you already know, the difference between determiners and pronouns is that determiners come before a noun and always need to have a noun next to them, while pronouns appear on their own, replacing the structure determiner+noun.

Now that we’ve gone through some basic information about demonstratives, let’s see how they are used.

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  • We use demonstratives to ‘point to’ something in the situation.

This and these to refer to something near the speaker.

That and those refer to things further away.

English Grammar Lesson, Demostratives

This and that are singular.

These and those are plural.

  • The basic meanings of ‘near the speaker’ and ‘further away from the speaker’ apply to both place and time.


English Grammar, Demonstratives
  • We also use this and that with uncountable nouns as well as singular ones.

this coffee     

that music

  • When it is clear from the context what you mean, leave out the noun and use a demonstrative pronoun.

What about these jeans? – Oh, I like those.

  • We can use one or ones instead of the noun.

What about this one?

These ones are lovely.

  • When you are in a place or situation, or at an event, use this to refer to it.

This is a great party. I’m having so much fun!

  • You can use that/those with something already seen or talked about but no longer present in the situation. This usage is rather informal.

That bag you wore yesterday was my favorite.

  • Use this when you are talking about something that is about to happen.

I’m going to enjoy this film.

  • Use that for something that is over.

That was delicious. I ate way too much.

  • Use this or these for the present time, and that or those for the past time.

My sister is staying with us this week.

Things are different these days.

I remember that Christmas. My sister was staying with us that week.

Things were different in those days.

  • You can use this (instead of a/an) to introduce the topic of a story or joke.

This girl came into a bar and…

  • When you mention something a second time, use it or they/them. There is no need to use a demonstrative again.

These flowers are wilted. I forgot to put them in some water.

  • You can use a demonstrative with words for people.

that girl (over there)

these people (in here)

  • You can also use the pronouns this and that when you identify someone.

Mum, this is my friend Jack.

That was Jack at the door.

  • On the phone, you use this to identify yourself.

Hello. This is Adriana. Is Jack there, please?

  • We usually use that when we ask who the other person is.

Is that you, Jack?

Who is that? / Who is this?

  • You can use that to refer to a statement or idea mentioned before.

I forgot to buy her a gift. – Oh, that doesn’t matter.

Here that means ‘the fact that I haven’t bought a gift’.

  • We also use this and that in a number of idiomatic statements to express agreement or to say that someone has made a relevant point.

That’s right.

That’s the thing.

That’s (just) it.

This is it.

  • In these expressions, we stress the word at the end (right, thing, it).

  • When we refer forward to what we are going to say, we use this.

What I’d like to say is this. I love you so very much and want to make you happy.

That’s it! As you can see, the use of demonstratives is simple. Just remember which forms are singular, and which are plural. It’s that simple!

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