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Demonstrative Adjectives & Examples

Demonstrative adjectives fall under a variety of categories when it comes to grammar. Yet, its main purpose is to describe or replace nouns and pronouns in a sentence. 

The most common demonstratives are:

  • This (singular)
  • That (singular)
  • These (plural)
  • Those (plural)

Before you dive into that paper or article, you might want to check this ‘demonstration’  of how and when to use these special parts of speech. 

Demonstrative Adjectives & Examples: 

What is a demonstrative adjective? Starting with a straight explanation is a little complicated. First off, a demonstrative adjective is a type of limiting word. Whereas some words give more information about nouns, limiting words indicate which noun you’re referring to. 

Though there are many subcategories of adjectives, one of the most important groups you will learn about are pronominal words. Demonstrative words fall under this category and can act as pronouns or help define a noun.

There’s one easy hint to remember when trying to determine whether a pronominal word is defining a noun or working as a pronoun. Pronouns stand alone in a sentence, whereas describing words stand next to other nouns.

Pronoun

  • These belong on the sidewalk.

These is the pronoun for a noun and it stands alone.

Noun

Below, the describing word is underlined and the noun is italicized.

  • The rusted oven looks corroded.
    • With a demonstrative: This oven looks corroded.
  • The puppy is silly.  
    • With a demonstrative: That puppy is silly.

Now that you understand a bit about how these words function, let’s look at an easy-to-understand description and some examples.

What are Demonstrative Adjectives?

Here’s a simpler demonstrative adjective definition: These words point to an object or a set of objects and clarify which object you’re referring to. These words help you answer the question, “which one?”. For instance:

  • Which chair do you like best? I like that hanging egg chair; it’s cool!
  • Well, I prefer this vintage, chaise lounge myself.

What is the Purpose of Demonstrative Adjectives?

As you can tell in the examples above, people often talk about other people, places, and things. But how do you know exactly which noun someone is referring to? What about tenses, does it matter? Well, in that case you pay attention to the limiting words someone uses.

By using these words, you remove any confusion about which noun you’re referring to and tenses have very little to do with it. 

Correct:

  • Did you want this water bottle or that orange juice? It was your choice.
  • Would you prefer these paintings or those ones?

Wrong:

  • Do you want this water bottles? 
  • These one or that one?

Do you want a few more instances? Still asking ‘what are demonstrative adjectives’? Continue reading or find more info about limiting words here.

A Few Demonstrative Adjective Examples

Let’s review: What is a demonstrative adjective? As mentioned earlier, there are four different demonstrative adjectives to memorize: 

  • this 
  • that
  • these
  • those 

They are words that remove confusion by telling the reader or listener which specific noun you’re referring to. Since there are only four, it’s not too difficult to remember, right? The tricky thing is when to use each specific word and how to use them all.

Now, which of the following sentences contains a demonstrative adjective?

 

  1. This apple tastes bad.
  2. There are many kids here, today. 
  3. These skates are as big as my dad’s feet.

 

As you can see, both option one and three contain demonstrative adjectives. This in option one is a demonstrative adjective for a singular noun. Whereas these in option three refers to the plural noun, skates. Don’t understand the difference between singular and plural nouns? Don’t worry, this guide has you covered.  

Which Words Do You Use for Singular Nouns?

There are two demonstrative adjectives for singular nouns: that and this.

Without using these words, you get sentences like:

  • The house is small.

In most cases, your listeners will not understand which house you’re referring to. To give more information about the house you’re speaking about, you can say:

  • This house is small.
  • That house is small.

Both bolded words limit the other houses and help your listener understand which house you mean. But, how do you decide between this and that when defining a noun?

While both refer to singular nouns, this points to something close to you. For instance, this demonstrative adjective examples:

  • Should I wear this blue dress or this red one?

More than likely, the person asking you this question is holding up both dresses for you to compare.

You use that when something is further away from you.

  • What do you think about that dress she’s wearing? I think the floral pattern is pretty!

In this example, the speaker is talking about someone else’s dress that’s perhaps not directly in front of the speaker.

Since you know a bit about limiting singular nouns, you can incorporate them into your writing. You’ll be able to know which sentences contain a demonstrative adjective in no time. If you want to make sure your writing is polished, try out this plagiarism checker. If you find text that needs to be cited, Citation Machine Plus has tools that create citations in APA format!

What About Plural Nouns?

Just like there are two words to refer to singular nouns, there are also two words to refer to plural nouns. You can use the demonstrative adjective these or those to refer to more than one noun.

  • I love those ice cream flavors best!
  • Well, I like these flavor combinations better!

Similarly, use of these two words depends on how close in proximity they are to the speaker. You use these to refer to nouns close to you.

  • Oh, I just love these movies! You have all my favorites.

The movies the speaker is referring to are probably a collection of DVD’s near the speaker.

  • Look at those adorable puppies! Can I have one, please?

The puppies are likely not directly by the speaker in this case. Though demonstrative adjectives can be added to determine where nouns are in space and time, you can also use a demonstrative adjective to quantify nouns. Of course, this also has to do with context.

Quantifying Nouns

Another way to think of a demonstrative’s purpose when it comes to nouns is to understand what a determiner is. A determiner is a specific set of descriptive words that quantifies or describes a noun. 

This, that, these, and those are determiners and when it comes to describing a number value, you can replace them with an actual numerical word and it can still be classified as a demonstrative adjective. Check out the examples given:

  • The first cup of coffee happened at 8 a.m.
  • Luna is the fourth cat I counted today. 

Hopefully these demonstrative adjective examples have been helpful. Do you think you can answer ‘what is a demonstrative adjective’, yet?

Which of the following sentences contains a demonstrative adjective in its correct usage?

  1. a). These flowers just made my day.

b). This are not for sale.

  1. a). This is Rhonda.

b). That are all of the shoes in town.

For one, option a uses these to refer to flowers (plural). In the second, option a uses this to refer to a singular person (Rhonda).

What’s the Difference Between Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns?

There are two ways that you can use this, that, these, and those. The first way is as a describing word. The second way is as a pronoun. How each word functions depends on how it’s used.

How can you turn this, that, these, and those into words that modify nouns? In all of the examples above, the words refer to a specific noun. For instance:

  • Greg likes this book.
  • Allison recommends that sports car instead of this van.

You know exactly which noun someone is referring to, because they’re unlike the others. 

If you replace a noun with either this, that, these, or those, then these words become pronouns.

  • I like that too.
  • Do you want these, Alex?
  • We have three rounds of these.
  • There are two more of those to track down.

In both examples, that and these are replacing a noun. Therefore, they’re pronouns instead of limiting nouns.

In addition, when you use conjunctions in sentences, instead of describing specific nouns and pronouns, you can add this, that, these, and those to refer to all of them at once. As mentioned above, the demonstrative word you use to group the words and replace the nouns also becomes a pronoun.

For example, a conjunction is when a word or a comma is used to connect two or more sentences and phrases together. The sentence below:

  •  I will gather all of the books, bags, and chairs over there. 

The conjunction uses a comma + and to list the nouns. However, you can group nouns together to make shorter sentences. Such as:

  • I will gather all of these here.
  • Can you bring me those over there?

Before you test your understanding with a few exercises, take a second to review MLA format and learn about more styles of creating citations.

Practice Exercises

Which of the following sentences contains a demonstrative adjective?

1.
  1. Do you like the table?
  2. I don’t like that.
2.
  1. So, what do you think?
  2. I think I’ll buy that table.
3.
  1. Have you seen my new goldfish?
  2. No, I haven’t seen those.
4.
  1. The koi are so large! 
  2. Are these fish yours?
5.
  1. When did you book my ticket? 
  2. I bought that in December.
6.
  1. I’m ready for my flight! 
  2. I booked that flight in September.
7.
  1. Is Buddy your dog? 
  2. No, that is not my dog.
8.
  1. Is this your cat? 
  2. Yes, that is my cat.

Explain in your own words, what are demonstrative adjectives?

How’d you do? Hopefully, this helps you determine the difference between pronouns and describing words. Are there any questions in the exercise you had trouble with? Discuss your answers with a friend and see if they got different results.

 


Published March 5, 2019. Updated April 23, 2020.

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