Which four words are demonstrative determiners?
This is the first of two lessons about Demonstratives. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Explore what determiners are as a type of word
– Compare the three types demonstrative in English: determiner, pronoun and adverb
– Discuss the four grammar rules of demonstrative determiners
From verbs to nouns and prepositions, there are many types of words to learn about in English. Some have more complex grammar than others and some have hundreds (or even thousands) of words within their grouping to learn. However, one small and fairly straightforward word categorisation that significantly increases essay cohesion is the demonstrative determiner. To help students learn to maximise the four words ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘these’ and ‘those’, we explore their grammar in Lesson 1 and their use in English for academic purposes (EAP) in Lesson 2.
What are determiners?
As a word type, determiners are a small word grouping that perform a fairly unified function. That function is to pre-modify a noun or noun phrase, determining aspects such as possession, quantity, order and identity. The three main subtypes of determiner are articles, demonstratives, and quantifiers:
Determiners are always the first element of a noun phrase in English, coming before any adjectives that may also pre-modify the main noun of that phrase. Within that phrase, it’s also important to remember that a noun may only take one determiner. It would be ungrammatical, for example, to say ‘a this large, beautiful house’:
What are demonstratives?
Demonstratives are as they sound. These words demonstrate and distinguish one person, object or event from another, usually in a referential manner – so that without further information or context, precise meaning cannot be understood. This referential manner is observable in the three types of demonstrative below. These are determiner (A), pronoun (B) and adverb (C) demonstratives:
In (A), the determiners ‘this’ and ‘that’ may distinguish two different essays, but they do not provide any more detail about those nouns aside from proximity to the speaker (with ‘this’ being closer and ‘that’ being farther away). As for (B), without actually seeing the speaker, it would be impossible for a reader to know what the pronouns ‘this’ and ‘that’ refer to at all. The reader would know that these demonstratives referred to different things, but more context would be needed for effective communication, again indicating referential manner. Finally, in (C), the demonstrative adverbs ‘here’ and ‘then’ refer to locations and times that require further detail to be sufficiently understood. ‘Here’ would be wherever the speaker was at that moment and ‘then’ would be whatever time they arrived. It is this referential quality that makes demonstratives somewhat unique.
Are all demonstratives determiners?
What these three examples also demonstrate is that not all demonstratives are determiners. The four demonstrative determiners in English ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘these’ and ‘those’ may be pronouns too if they replace a noun rather than distinguish it, and some adverbs such as ‘here’ and ‘there’ are clearly also determiners. For the purposes of the remainder of this short course however, we focus only on the four ‘th-’ words.
What are the grammar rules of demonstratives?
The grammar rules for demonstratives are quite clear cut and easy to learn. In short, there are only four such rules that students need to remember if they wish to use this word type accurately:
1. Use ‘this’ and ‘that’ to refer to singular or uncountable nouns
2. Use ‘these’ and ‘those’ to refer to plural countable nouns
3. Use ‘this’ and ‘these’ to refer to something near to you
4. Use ‘that’ and ‘those’ to refer to something far away
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