Demonstrative Pronouns

The Demonstrative Pronouns are this and that, with their plurals these and those.

They are used to point out persons or things with definiteness or special emphasis. (The word “demonstrative” derives from the same root as “demonstrate,” meaning “to point out.”)

Case. The demonstrative pronouns have the same form for the nominative and objective cases and have no possessive form.

Antecedent. The antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun may be:

(1) A single noun: as, “I recently reread The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I believe that is the best of Mark Twain’s novels.”

(2) Two or more nouns referred to by a plural demonstrative pronoun: as, “I have spent many years reading Keats and Wordsworth. These are the most rewarding of the Romantic poets.”

(3) A whole statement: as, “The Los Angeles Philharmonic charges a lot of money for tickets, and that keeps many people from attending their concerts.” (In order to avoid ambiguity, this last type of reference is often avoided in formal writing.)

Often the demonstrative pronoun has no expressed antecedent. This is especially true in conversation, when persons or things referred to can be indicated with a gesture or a glance. A person seeing something of note has only to say, “Look at that!” or picking up a DVD, could say, “Have you seen this yet?”

This and these refer to objects comparatively near; that and those, to things comparatively farther away: as, “I like this as well as that.” “I’ll stick with these instead of those.”

This and that make reference to singular antecedents; these and those, to plural antecedents.

Distinction Between Relative and Demonstrative Pronouns. That can be either a relative or a demonstrative pronoun. Compare the following sentences:

He opened the package that he ordered (relative).

He wanted to do that, time permitting (demonstrative).

The demonstrative that points out something as definitely as if one were pointing a finger at it. The relative that has none of this definite force. As a rule, the relative that is placed immediately after its antecedent and introduces a separate clause which modifies the antecedent. The demonstrative that can be at a considerable distance from its antecedent, even by a few sentences, and it does not introduce a separate clause.

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