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Thursday, November 17, 2016 Demonstrative Adjectives: Forever Alone?

What Is a Demonstrative Adjective?

  • “This is why I said that.”
  • “Bring me those.”
  • “When this is the case, one does not know what to do.”

Do you have any idea what I’m talking about in the sentences above? To be honest, neither do I. In all of these sentences, the confusion stems from the use of demonstrative pronouns rather than demonstrative adjectives. A demonstrative pronoun replaces a noun with “this,” “that,” “these”, or “those,” as in the examples above. Demonstrative adjectives, on the other hand, occur next to nouns (“this” cat, “that” dog, “these” children, “those” trees) and tell the reader which thing or group of things you’re referring to.

The Problem

Many beginning writers use demonstrative pronouns instead of adjectives because they are used to speaking that way. This use of language becomes a problem in writing, though, because you can’t point or otherwise indicate what you’re talking about. Using demonstrative pronouns in a paper—using “this,” “that,” “these,” or “those” without a noun immediately after them—can confuse readers, since they often have difficulty figuring out what you mean, particularly if (as in most essays) you discuss more than one thing or idea in the same paragraph.

The Solution

Never leave “this,” “that,” “these,” or “those” standing alone in a sentence if you can possibly avoid it. If one of these words occurs in your essay without a noun immediately following it, add a noun to clarify what you’re talking about. It may help to think of these words as half of a pair of middle school girls who are “bffs”—if you have one without the other, it is lonely and lost. Don’t do that to your demonstrative adjectives. Everyone needs a buddy.


Here are some quick examples of demonstrative adjectives used correctly:

  • “These papers need to go into the shredder.”
  • “That team won the championship.”
  • “This strategy can help you stay calm in those stressful situations.”

Quick Summary

Here’s the basic idea of what we’ve discussed.

Demonstrative adjectives are:

  • this
  • that
  • these
  • those

Placing a noun immediately after these words anytime you use one will increase clarity in your papers.

Remember your buddy system, and happy writing!

Jenny Pretzer is an English major and a writing coach at Liberty University's Undergraduate Writing Coach. 

Posted at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)
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