Demonstrative adjective definition: Demonstrative adjectives are words that modify nouns and identify a specific noun or nouns.
What is a Demonstrative Adjective?
Demonstrative adjectives are words that modify nouns and identify a specific noun or nouns. Demonstrative adjectives answer the question: Which one?
Demonstrative adjectives identify a specific noun.
Demonstrative Adjective Examples:
Here is a sentence without a demonstrative adjective.
- The tree is beautiful.
If the speaker were in a forest, this would be a very confusing statement. The audience might question: Which tree?
Here is a sentence with a demonstrative adjective.
- That tree is beautiful.
This sentence clarifies any confusion and identifies a specific tree. Which tree is beautiful? That tree.
What are the Demonstrative Adjectives?
What are the four demonstrative adjectives? There are only four demonstrative adjectives, so it isn’t hard to memorize them for future reference.
Demonstrative Adjectives List:
This/That for Singular Nouns
What is the difference between this and that? Demonstrative adjectives “this” and “that” are used for singular nouns.
“This” is used for a noun in close proximity.
- This is my favorite coat.
In this sentence, the speaker likely has the coat in front of him or her or is holding the coat.
“That” is used for a noun at greater distance.
- That is my favorite coat.
In this sentence, the speaker is likely pointing out to a specific coat among many. Perhaps it is across the room or in someone else’s possession.
These/Those for Plural Nouns
What is the difference between these and those? Demonstrative adjectives “these” and “those” are used for plural nouns.
When to use these: These is used for nouns in close proximity.
- These cookies are delicious.
In this sentence, the speaker likely has the cookies in front of him or is eating the cookies.
- Not a single bank ranks in the top 10 of the Fortune 500, based on revenue. But looking at the massive free cash flow of these companies shows them in a different light – as half of the top 10 biggest cash generators are big banks. –USA Today
In this example, the writer uses these to describe companies on the Fortune 500 list.
When to use those: Those is used for nouns at greater distance.
- Those cookies are delicious.
In this sentence, the speaker is likely pointing to specific cookies. Perhaps the cookies are on a plate in the kitchen, or someone else is eating them.
- The last day that customers can use Costco’s TrueEarnings American Express will be Sunday. On Monday, those cards will no longer work at Costco or anywhere else. –CNBC
In this example, the writer uses those to describe the credits cards that will no longer work.
Demonstrative Adjectives vs. Demonstrative Pronouns
Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns look very similar because they are the same four words: this, that, these, those.
However, demonstrative pronouns function as pronouns, not adjectives. That is, demonstrative pronouns replace nouns and do not modify them.
- Do you like the painting?
- I like that.
In this sentence, “that” replaces the noun, painting. “That” is serving as a demonstrative pronoun.
So demonstrative pronouns and adjectives are the same four words. What separates them is their function within the sentence.
If the word is acting as an adjective, it is a demonstrative adjective. If it is acting as a noun, it is a demonstrative pronoun.
For a definition of demonstrative pronoun, see here.
Exercises with Demonstrative Adjectives
Fill in the blank with the appropriate demonstrative adjective.
- My parents refinished the dresser. While it was drying, my mom placed a sign on it that said, “Do not touch _____.”
- “Do you want to buy _____ painting?” asked the art dealer, looking across the room.
- “We purchased _____ for our vacation,” said Karen, packing two sets of snorkeling gear.
See answers below.
Summary: What are Demonstrative Adjectives?
Define demonstrative adjectives: The definition of a demonstrative adjective is an adjective the modifies a noun merely by pointing to it, rather than describing it.
Consider the difference,
- This car.
- Green car.
Demonstrative adjectives modify specific nouns and include this, that, these, and those. This and that are used for singular nouns. These and those are used for plural nouns. This and these are used for nouns in close proximity while that and those are used for nouns at greater distance.