Demonstrative Pronouns

Download Free PDF Worksheets

Worksheet 1, Demonstratives -- This, That, These, Those, 7 Exercises
Worksheet 2, Demonstratives -- This, That, These, Those, 14 Exercises

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The Problem

The demonstratives this, that, these, and those can make your writing easy to read or difficult. They can also provide the emphasis that you as a writer want to make. The word this, especially, can be confusing if it is used carelessly at the beginning of a sentence.

A Demonstrative Pronoun at the Beginning of a Sentence May Lack Clarity

Potentially Unclear: The little league baseball team refused to shake hands with the opposing team after a lopsided loss. This set a bad example for the players on both the losing team and the winning team.

In this sentence, the demonstrative word this is used as a pronoun.

Clearer: The little league baseball team refused to shake hands with the opposing team after a lopsided loss. This poor sportsmanship set a bad example for the players on both the losing team and the winning team.

In this revision, the demonstrative word this is used as an adjective, modifying "poor sportsmanship."

Is "This" at the Beginning of a Sentence Correct?

The short answer is YES.

Some writers may look at the first sentence and think, "There's nothing wrong with the sentence," and they would be correct. There is nothing grammatically wrong. The word this is a demonstrative pronoun and serves as the subject of the sentence.

It's a Question of Clarity and Precision

But in using only the pronoun this, the writer forces the reader to "fill in" the concept that is being referred to. Make things easy for your reader and communicate your intention or emphasis as a writer clearly.

Notice that there are many terms that a reader can use to "fill in" the concept after this: bad behavior, refusal, petulance, immaturity.... Which one do you, as a writer, want to emphasize?

A General Rule

General Rule: When you start a sentence with a demonstrative pronoun (this, that, these, and those, especially this), make sure that the next word (or words) is a noun that defines the idea in the previous sentence. In other words, turn the demonstrative pronoun into an adjective.

A Final Example

Potentially Unclear: The football coach did not collect signed permission forms from the parents, forgot to request the playing field, and failed to schedule the school bus for use as transportation. This prompted the principal to reprimand the coach.

The reader knows that the pronoun this in the second sentence refers to "all those things that the coach did not do." The concept is fairly obvious. However, a careful writer identifies the concept and creates an emphasis or connotation that the reader may not "fill in." Does the writer mean these lapses, this neglect, this irresponsibility, these minor oversights (note the emphasis), these intolerable mistakes?

Clearer: The football coach did not collect signed permission forms from the parents, forgot to request the playing, and failed to schedule the school bus for use as transportation. These minor oversights prompted the principal to reprimand the coach.

Worksheet 1, 7 Exercises

The following exercises are in the free PDF worksheets. The worksheets may be reproduced freely. Students must write out the complete, correct sentence.

  1. The chef forgot to include basil in making the spaghetti sauce. This caused the meal to be bland and led to a bad review in Food magazine.
  2. Mary Ellen made the honor roll, won an essay contest, and was admitted to Mu Alpha Theta. This improved her chances of being admitted to a top university.
  3. Maria waits until the last minute to do everything. This causes her to lose out on financial aid and lose the classes she needs to take.
  4. Xavier always completed his assignments on time, never complained about coworkers, and seldom took any sick time. This led to his promotion.
  5. Marble Slab Creamery offers waffle cones, wafer cones, several ice cream flavors, and many different toppings. This is what makes their ice cream so delicious.
  6. Alicia forgot she had to take care of her little sister and went out with her friends instead. This got her in trouble with her mom.
  7. Our server did not bring drink refills, communicated our order wrongly to the chef, and sat down to speak with other guests while we waited for our check. This kept her from getting a generous tip.

Worksheet 2, 14 Exercises

  1. Arnold stopped eating ice cream at night. This helped him lose the weight he wanted before going away to college.
  2. Selena started taking acting lessons and auditioning for local plays. This proved to her parents that she was serious about a career in show business.
  3. When Dr. Shriver decided to suspend the field trip, the 5th grade parents wrote a letter to the district president. This led to Dr. Shriver’s dismissal as principal.
  4. After Justin earned perfect scores on spelling tests for three weeks, Mrs. Schmidt awarded him a gold star. This prompted his parents to take him to Universal Studios.
  5. Danika compiled over 400 index cards to study for her AP World History test. This helped her to get a 5 on the test.
  6. Coach Farley started a body building program at the high school. Some parents do not support this because they believe it detracts from the academics.
  7. Unless Shelly raises her GPA to a 3.5, her parents will not allow her to play softball. This made Shelly more determined to do well in school.
  8. Ronaldo scored four goals in a soccer match. This improved his chances of earning a soccer scholarship at a top university.
  9. Many Catholics do not eat meat on Good Friday, attend mass regularly, and receive communion. They believe that this brings them spiritual renewal.
  10. Some Wal-Mart stores carry items that cater to Latino tastes. This helps the stores appeal to a broader base of shoppers.
  11. Because Mr. Gomez was promoted to chief of security, his department threw him a surprise party. This was held after work hours at the TGIF.
  12. Robert decided to apply to Stanford University after earning high scores on the SAT. This made his family and friends look at Robert with new-found respect.
  13. Bryce Harper dropped out of high school and passed the GED so that he could enroll at a community college and play baseball. This made him eligible for the 2011 Major League baseball draft.
  14. Barry Bonds is believed to have taken performance enhancing drugs and lied about their use while he set home run records in baseball. This might prevent him from being elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

Links for the Use of Demonstratives

I did not find much material in the use of demonstratives as a stylistic tool. Most web pages dealing with "demonstrative pronouns" or "demonstratives" were for students of ESL, not high school or college compostion. If you can find better links than there are below on this topic, please let me know.

  • Capital Community College

    Scroll down to the section on Demonstrative Pronouns.


    The material is brief, but it may be useful.

  • Wise Geek

    This (sometimes a demonstrtive pronoun makes perfect sense!) is the best discussion of demonstratives and writing style that I could find on the web.