|Grammatically Correct 8/24/04
A weekly grammar tip created by Academic Center Peer Writing Tutors.
University of Houston-Victoria
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|Using Demonstrative Pronouns: Avoiding the Naked “This”
by Lisa Bullock
Demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those) show distance and number in reference to nouns they represent. Whereas this and these refer to nouns that are in close proximity to the speaker, that and those refer to nouns that are at a greater distance from the speaker. For instance, we often use these pronouns in speech when we are pointing to an object or a person and there is no doubt as to what or to whom the pronoun refers. That is, both speaker and listener are in the presence of the object/person in question.
“This is my friend.” [This demonstrative pronoun (this) indicates only one friend. In addition, the pronoun suggests that the friend is in close proximity to the speaker.]
“Those are for you.” [This demonstrative pronoun (those) indicates more than one object. Also, it implies that the indicated items are farther away.]
In writing, demonstrative pronouns can be problematic because the writer and reader are not in each other’s presence. When writers use demonstrative pronouns without clearly identifying the noun that the demonstrative pronoun illustrates, readers may miss the meaning of the sentence. A naked “this” refers to this (or any other demonstrative pronoun for that matter) used in writing without a clear, specific noun to which it refers. For example, try to determine what I mean in the following sentence:
This shows why I do not like your position in the argument.
This example shows why I do not like your position in the argument.
Now a reader recognizes that the example identifies the reason for disliking the position. Otherwise, the reader probably could not clearly understand the reason for dislike.
Note that by including example in the sentence, the demonstrative pronoun this is now a demonstrative adjective since it describes the noun, example. Remember, a demonstrative pronoun stands in place of a noun, whereas a demonstrative adjective describes a noun.
Thus, demonstrative pronouns should only be used when the reader can clearly
understand exactly what they are referring to. To avoid using the naked “this” in
your writing, be sure to monitor your use of demonstrative pronouns carefully.
You might even want to skim your writing for these pronouns specifically.
Doing so will help you recognize the use of these demonstrative pronouns
and determine if you have clarified the context of the situation effectively.
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Lisa Bullock
You may want to check out http://grammar.uoregon.edu/pronouns/demonstrative.html for more information on demonstrative pronouns.
This site provides an in-depth look at demonstrative pronouns acting in different parts of the sentence. Also, it discusses the difference between demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives.
|Test Your Knowledge
by Lisa Bullock
|Test your ability using demonstrative pronouns by identifying
the demonstrative pronouns in the following sentences. Next, identify the
noun to which the demonstrative pronoun refers. If the noun that the demonstrative
pronoun represents is unclear, write “unclear” and add a noun
after the demonstrative pronoun (These answers may vary.)
NOTE – Adding a noun directly after a demonstrative pronoun makes the demonstrative pronoun become a demonstrative adjective (See recommended website above for more information).
1.) This is my sister.
2 – that pencil
3 – those unclear
4 – that your drawing
5 – these unclear
Comments about this newsletter should be directed to Summer Leibensperger, firstname.lastname@example.org.