Demonstrative pronouns

What is a demonstrative pronoun?

Those are the pronouns you are looking for, those ones over there. The words that take the place of a noun, a noun phrase, a list of noun phrases, an activity or a situation.

The demonstrative pronouns are the same as the demonstrative adjectives that, this, those and these – but they take the place of the nouns. So, instead of those magicians or that donkey, only those or that are required.

There’s no way that is going to carry all of those.

There are also another three words that are sometimes pressed into service as demonstrative pronouns – such, none and neither. None shall pass or such is life are both solid examples.

One important quality of the demonstrative pronoun is that it gives the reader or listener a sense of distance from the write or speaker. It can be either physical distance (I’ll swap you this sausage for that piece of bacon) or affective, which can be an emotional distance (I don’t want to talk about that; this is far more important) or a temporal one (This has been a very difficult couple of weeks, but, 1995, that was a very difficult year).

The tricky thing with these is that demonstrative pronouns usually require some kind of indicatory gesture, someone pointing out the donkey. As a result, they tend to be used more extensively in spoken English. However, as long as their antecedents are clearly indicated, then the pronouns can be used in a written text too. Lists work well here.

The gorgeous beaches, the snow-capped mountains, the ancient poetic culture, the indifferent weather – these are what make North Wales such a fantastic tourist destination.

One antiquated word that has disappeared from the list of English demonstrative pronouns is yon, which suggested something further away than that, and does still survive in the phrase hither and yon.

Examples of demonstrative pronouns

singular proximal demonstrative pronoun this This is the best fish taco I’ve ever tasted.
singular distal demonstrative pronoun that That was the worst meal I’ve ever eaten.
plural proximal demonstrative pronoun these These are best days of your life.
plural distal demonstrative pronoun those Those were the days, my friend.