DEMONSTRATIVES are used to point out or identify a particular item, as follows:

THIS - Indicates something located close to the speaker

THAT - Indicates something located at a distance from the speaker

THESE - Indicates several things located close to the speaker

THOSE - Indicates several things located at a distance from the speaker.

NOTE:  The location of the speaker, not the listener, is important here. It is sometimes possible to cause confusion if the listener is unable to see which object is being referred to. In which case a further clarification will be required, such as "over there", "on the counter", or "the blue one".



JANET (Pointing to a object held in her other hand): "What is this?"

JOHN (Standing across the other side of the room): "That is a pencil."


JANET (Pointing at the window to an object in the garden outside): "What is that?"

JOHN (Looking through the window towards the object indicated): "That is a tree."


Remember that DEMONSTRATIVES are used in reference to the speaker. [What is near to one person may not be near the other]   Button


JANET: "What's that you're holding?"

JOHN: "This is an egg. Here, catch!"

JANET: "Oops!"

JOHN: "That's a mess!


JANET holds up a garish pair of shorts. "What are these?"

JOHN replies, "Those are my shorts."


Make certain that you use "this" or "that" with SINGULAR and NON-COUNT NOUNS and "these" or "those" with COUNT NOUNS    Button

 NON-COUNT                                   COUNT

THIS orange is sweet.                     THESE oranges are bitter.

THAT truck is full.                            THOSE trucks are empty.

THIS milk is sour.                            THAT milk is fine.


Sometimes DEMONSTRATIVES can be used as PRONOUNS (referring to a particular NOUN.)    Button

"Give me that!"                     (= Give me that book.)

"Whose are these?"              (= Whose are these dirty socks?)


"This" and "that" can also be used with "one". "These" and "those" are more commonly used on their own.   Button

"I want this one, not this one."

"I want these, not those."

"May I have that one, please?"

"May I have those instead, please?"


 "This" and "that" are used differently by the British and Americans when Identifying callers on the telephone:   Button


Receiver :


Caller :

I was wondering if you would be interested in buying . . .

Receiver :

Who is this? (American)

Who is that? (British)

(Both expressions are used to ask the caller to identify himself/herself.)    Button

Caller :

This is Mr. Fuller from the Midland Bank.

(Same for both British and American English)

Caller :

Hi Jack. Long time no see!

Receiver :

Is this Bob? What a surprise! (American)

Is that Bob? What a surprise! (British)





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SCG LANGUAGE TUTORIALS for English grammar and vocabulary tutorials and analysis of UCAS applications and other documents, for students of English as a second language [ESL] and other British qualifications.