This, That, These, Those

I come across the misuse of the words this, that, these, and those quite often. There are specific rules on how you use each of those words (called demonstrative pronouns). Do you know how to use them correctly? Let’s find out!

1. If you have not introduced a subject yet, do not use this, that, these, or those. Use a regular article (a, an, the) or a pronoun (his, hers, theirs). For example:

Wrong: Lucas slammed the car door. This vehicle constantly broke down.
(Whose vehicle is “this”? We don’t know. Use an article or pronoun to describe it.)
Right: Lucas slammed the car door. The/His vehicle constantly broke down.

Wrong: That news thrilled Sophia.
(What news is “that”? We don’t know. Use an article to describe it.)
Right: The news thrilled Sophia.

Wrong: These guys were like family to Carver.
(Who are “these guys”? We don’t know. Use an article to describe them.)
Right: The guys were like family to Carver.

Wrong: I don’t know what to do with those kittens.
(What or whose kittens are “those”? We don’t know. Use an article to describe them.)
Right: I don’t know what to do with the kittens.


2. If you have introduced the subject, you need to know when to use this/that and these/those. Here is how you determine which word to use:

A singular subject uses either the word this or that.
      THIS = points to the subject in close proximity
      THAT = points to the subject at a distance

A plural subject uses either the word these or those.
      THESE = points to the subjects in close proximity
      THOSE = points to the subjects at a distance


Let’s add the subject to the examples above, then we can determine which demonstrative pronoun to use:

Lucas slammed the door of his 1978 Chevy Malibu. This vehicle constantly broke down.
(We know what car is being discussed, plus we know Lucas is right next to it, so use THIS.)

Lucas slammed the door of his 1978 Chevy Malibu and stomped into the house. That vehicle constantly broke down.
(We know what car is being discussed, plus we know Lucas is away from it inside the house, so use THAT.)

~~~

Sophia’s boss smiled and said she was giving Sophia a raise. This news thrilled Sophia.
(We know what the news is, plus Sophia just heard it, so use THIS.)

Sophia walked on clouds all day, knowing she was getting a raise. That news thrilled Sophia.
(We know what the news is, but Sophia heard it a while ago, so use THAT.)

~~~

The basketball team whooped and crowded around Carver after he scored the winning basket. These guys were like family to him.
(We know what the plural subject is, plus the team just crowded around Carver, so use THESE.)

The basketball team texted Carver all night about scoring the winning basket. Those guys were like family to him.
(We know what the plural subject is, but the team is not right there in the scene, so use THOSE.)

~~~

When I heard squealing, I looked behind the bushes and saw that a stray cat had left her babies there. I don’t know what to do with these kittens.
(We know what the plural subject is, plus I just saw them, so use THESE.)

All day I couldn’t stop wondering if the stray cat would come back for her babies. I don’t know what to do with those kittens.
(We know what the plural subject is, but I saw them a while ago, so use THOSE.)


Savvy Writer Tip:

Don’t write the words this, that, these, and those randomly. There are rules that explain exactly when and how to use them. Savvy writers know how to use demonstrative pronouns correctly! 🙂

3 thoughts on “This, That, These, Those”

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