Demonstratives in English Grammar

Introduction

This/that/these/those are demonstratives. We use them to indicate a particular noun (person or thing). We use this/that with singular countable nouns and these/those with plural countable nouns. This/these are used to indicate things close to the speaker or things that are happening now, whereas that/those indicate things further away in distance and time.

Learn the difference between this/that/these/those in English grammar and get tips on how to use them correctly. In the interactive exercises, you can test your knowledge.

Example

Girl: I’d like to to buy a tennis racket. Mine broke this week and I have an important match this weekend. Why is this racket so much more expensive than those ones on the wall?

Shop assistant: Those ones over there are for beginners. This one here is better quality and is for advanced tennis players.

Girl: I’ll take this one then. I had my first tennis lesson when I was five. That night I dreamt of being a famous tennis player, and I’ve been playing ever since.

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Usage

We use this/that for nouns in the singular and these/those for nouns in the plural.

Example:
this tennis racket here – that tennis racket over there
these tennis rackets here – those tennis rackets over there

Demonstratives can be used for place or time.

Place

If demonstratives are referring to a place, we use this/these for something that is located closer to the speaker (here) and that/those for something that is located further away from the speaker (there).

Example:
Why is this racket so much more expensive than those ones on the wall?

Time

If demonstratives are referring to a time, we use this/these for a time period that isn’t yet past (e.g. the week/month/year that we’re still in). Within this time period, however, the demonstrative pronoun can refer to something that has already happened, or something that hasn’t happened yet.

Example:
My tennis racket broke this week. (already happened)
I have an important match this weekend. (hasn’t happened yet)

The demonstratives that/those are used for a time period that is already past, or one that is further in the future (e.g. another week, another month in the past or the future).

Example:
I had my first tennis lesson when I was five. That night I dreamt of being a famous tennis player.

Demonstratives without Nouns

If we want to use demonstratives without nouns, we usually have to replace the noun with the words one (singular) or ones (plural).

Example:
this/that racket → this/that one
This one here is better quality.
these/those rackets → these/those ones
Those ones over there are for beginners.