Demonstrative adjectives masterclass

This post helps us understand what a demonstrative adjective is, and when and how to use it correctly in a sentence.

What is an adjective?

An adjective is a word or words that give information about a noun or pronoun in a sentence.

What is a demonstrative adjective?

Demonstrative adjective definition: it is a word that modifies a noun by talking about its number and vicinity of the speaker. A demonstrative adjective is also called a determiner. The demonstrative adjectives are this, that, these‘, and ‘those‘.

A demonstrative adjective comes right before a noun and modifies it.

Check out noun phrases and noun clauses in English.

Examples:

  • Don’t touch this box. Jon has told me not to do it.

(The speaker is pointing out a box that is close to the speaker and is one in number.)

  • Let’s go to that shop and have a cup of tea.

(The speaker is pointing out a shop that is a little far away from the speaker and is one in number)

  • These people have done a lot for me.

(Here, the speaker is pointing out some people who are close to the speaker, and they are more than one in number)

  • Look at those buildings. They were built last year.

(In this sentence, the speaker is pointing out particular buildings that are far away from the speaker, and they are more than one in number)

THIS

It is used to point out a singular noun that is close to the speaker

Examples:

  • This man can help you. Just listen to him.
  • I don’t like this dish.
  • We can’t afford this flat; it’s will cost us an arm and a length.

THAT

It is used to point out a singular noun that is far away from the speaker.

Examples:

  • Don’t go near to that tree. It is believed to be haunted.
  • That tower has been built lately.
  • Look at the girl standing next to Max. Jon is dating that girl.

THESE

The demonstrative adjective ‘these’ is used to point out people or things (a plural noun) that are close to the speaker, in the vicinity of the speaker.

Examples:

  • These guys helped me catch my flight yesterday.
  • I am not using these chairs. You can take them with you.
  • We were talking about these dogs. They play Football with us.

THOSE

The demonstrative adjective ‘those’ is used to point out people or things (a plural noun) that are far away from the speaker, not in the vicinity of the speaker.

Examples:

  • Let’s check out those shops.
  • Those kids are really good at fighting.
  • Those houses were built in 1990.

Check out possessive adjectives in English.

Demonstrative adjectives can point out nouns in terms of time

Generally, a demonstrative adjective points out a noun in terms of space (how close or far away it is from the speaker), but it can also refer to a time (noun) that is close or far away from the point where the speaker is at the moment of speaking.

  • I want you to shut up and enjoy this moment.

The expression ‘this moment’ is referring to the current time; it is close to the time when the message is delivered.

  • I remember that day. We had a lot of fun.

(The adjective ‘that’ is pointing out a day (time) that is far away from the day or time when the speaker delivered this message. Let’s say the speaker said that on September 29, 2021, and the day he/she is referring to is October 3, 2020. So, the speaker is using the demonstrative adjective ‘that‘ to refer to a singular noun (day) in terms of time. If the day was close to the day he said this sentence, we would use this not that.

  • Do you miss those days when we would bunk classes and go to Narula’s and have burgers?

The speaker is referring to some days in the past. Since he/she is referring to multiple days and the time period is far away from where the speaker is at the moment, we are using ‘those‘.

POINTS TO NOTE

1. The demonstrative adjective and its object should have the same number.

This projects needs to be finished by Sunday. ❌ (the adjective and the noun don’t match in number)

Corrections:

This project needs to be finished by Sunday. ✅
These projects need to be finished by Sunday. ✅✅

The demonstrative adjectives and their objects (nouns) match in number.

2. If a demonstrative pronoun may confuse your reader in understanding which noun it’s referring to, use a demonstrative adjective and the noun it refers to.

  • Last night, I cooked pasta and invited some neighbors. Some of my family members didn’t like that.

It is vague what some of my members didn’t like. Is it the pasta I cooked or the invitation? We don’t know what ‘that’ refers to here. In such a situation, we should use the noun the demonstrative refers to right after it.

  • Last night, I cooked pasta and invited some neighbors. Some of my family members didn’t like that pasta.
    • Last night, I cooked pasta and invited some neighbors. Some of my family members didn’t like that invitation.

    3. Demonstrative adjectives vs demonstrative pronouns

    The words ‘this’, ‘that’, these’, and ‘those’ can function as both adjectives and pronouns. When they function as pronouns, they are followed by a noun, and when they function as adjectives, they are followed by a noun.

    • I love that. It is tasty. (noun)
    • I love that sandwich. It is tasty. (adjective)
    • These are my people. (pronoun)
    • These people helped me a lot. (adjective)

    4. We can use an adjective or a determiner (only number) between a demonstrative adjective and the noun it modifies.

    Generally, a noun is directly followed by a demonstrative adjective. But we can use a number or an adjective between them.

    • These girls will help you.
    • These 2 girls will help you.
    • These smart girls will help you.
    • These 2 smart girls will help you.

    FAQs

    What is a demonstrative adjective?

    A demonstrative adjective is a word that modifies a noun by talking about its number and vicinity of the speaker in terms of time and space.

    How many demonstrative adjectives are there in English?

    There are 4 demonstrative adjectives in English: this, that, these, and those.

    What is the difference between demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns?

    A demonstrative pronoun is used to refer to a noun (often already mentioned), and a demonstrative adjective works as an adjective, comes before a noun and modifies by talking about its number and vicinity in terms of time or space.

    What are some examples of demonstrative adjectives?

    Here are some examples of demonstrative adjectives:
    1. Don’t touch this box. Jon has told me not to do it.
    2. Let’s go to that shop and have a cup of tea.
    3. These people have done a lot for me.

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