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Demonstrative Adjectives & Examples

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.

There are many different subcategories of limiting words. For now, you’ll learn about one of the most important groups. Demonstrative words fall under the category of pronominal words. These words can act as pronouns or 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.

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 an easy-to-remember demonstrative adjective definition: These words point to an object or 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? Well, in that case you pay attention to the limiting words someone uses.

By using a these words, you remove any confusion about which noun you’re referring to.

A Few Demonstrative Adjective Examples

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

Do you want a few more examples? Continue reading or find more info about limiting words here.

Let’s review: What is a demonstrative adjective? There are four different demonstrative adjectives to memorize: this, that, these, and 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.

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:

  • 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. 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 get one please?

The puppies are likely not directly by the speaker in this case.

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 the examples above, the words specify a specific noun. For instance:

  • Greg likes this book.
  • Allison recommends that sportscar 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?

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

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

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.