Demonstrative pronouns refer to 'this' and 'that'

Fleurette   The Very Demonstrative Russian Pronouns   Fleurette

We are assuming at this point that you have mastered (more or less) the personal and possessive pronouns. The next type of pronoun you need to have under your belt before you can babble away incessantly in Russian are the demonstrative pronouns. Here comes everything anyone could ever want to know about them.

First you need to realize that, just as it turned out that you knew all the endings on the possessive pronouns, you already know all the endings on the demonstrative pronouns—they are the same as those of the possessive. That is, the demonstrative pronouns follow the pronominal principle that the nominative-accusative endings are the same as nouns of the same gender and all other endings are the same as the corresponding adjective endings. Take a look at это "this" and то "that" in Russian.

Personal Pronoun Declensions:
1st & 2nd Persons
Case Singular Plural
Mas/Neu Feminine эти те
Nominative этот, это эта эти те
Accusative Nom/Gen эту Nom/Gen Nom/Gen
Genitive этого этой этих тех
Dative этому этой этим тем
Prepositional этом этой этих тех
Instrumental этим этой этими теми

The thing to notice is that except for the plural, это and то are declined identically. In fact, like all adjectives, the feminine declension had only one ending, -ой for all the singular cases other than nominative-accusative. You only have to look out for the plural: in the plural то uses a different vowel than the adjectives (and это), e rather than ыor и. Also notice that это uses the soft variant и in the plural even though it declines like a hard stem in the singular.

The demonstratives то and это may be used as nouns or adjectives. In Russian you may say either

1. Это — моя лягушка.That is my frog.
2. Это — мой трактор.That is my tractor.
3. Это — мои улитки.Those are my snails.
4. Эта лягушка — мояThat frog is mine.
5. Этот трактор — мойThat tractor is mine.
6. Эти улитки — моиThose snails are mine.

These tables tell several interesting stories.

  1. First, comparing (1-3 with (4-6), notice that in Russian there is no difference between the attributive forms like "my, your, his" and predicate forms like "mine, yours, his". There is only one set of possessive pronouns in Russian while English has one for attributive position and another for predicates.

  2. Second, getting back to the demonstratives, when это and то are used as nouns in the subject of a sentence, they remain singular even if the predicate is plural (3). However, when the demonstratives are used as adjectives, they must agree with the noun they modify as in (4-6).

  3. Finally, notice in (1-3) that while the default demonstrative in English is that, e.g. That is my book, in Russian the default demonstrative is этот, as in the Russian correlate Это — моя книга. So when you need to distinguish between "this" and "that", use the Russian demonstratives like the English ones. But if you just need a demonstrative and it doesn't matter which, in Russian say это.

Fleurette   The Adverbal Demonstratives   Fleurette

In addition to the noun and adjective demonstrative pronouns, there is a series of adverbial demonstratives meaning "that place (= there)", "that time (= then)", "that way (= thus)", "that kind of", etc. Here is the complete list (why they are called "T-K Pairs" here will become evident in the syntax review):

T-K Pronominal Pairs
Demonstrative PronounsInterrogative Pronouns
тот, то, та; те that, thoseкто?, что? who, what
такой, такая, такие
that kind of
какой?, какая?, какие?
what kind of
так thus, soкак? "how"
там, туда, оттуда
there, thither, thence
где?, куда?, откуда?
where, whither, whence
тогда thenкогда? when
столько that manyсколько? how many
потому for that reasonпочему? why

The demonstrative adverbal pronouns are used pretty much the same as their English counterparts. The obvious exception to this is the retention of forms for "there", "thence", and "thither". These words were still in English when Shakespeare wrote, so you are probably familiar with them even though you don't use them yourself in speaking. There, like Russian tam, indicated a place where an immobile object is located. Thither indicated a place to which some object moves while thence indicates a place from which some object (uh, like a person) moves. Obviously these two are used with spoken or implied verbs of motion, e.g. Ты куда? "Where are you off to?" or Куда ты идёшь? "Where are you going?" Or, in the other direction, Ты откуда? "Where did you come from?" as opposed to Где ты? "Where are you (currently)?"

The demonstrative adjectives are like no English pronoun; they are used to elicit a quality expressed in an adjective. For example, if you ask, Какая женщина—она? "What kind of woman is she?" you expect an adjective as an example, e.g. Она—умна/хорошая/задумчива "She is smart/good/contemplative." The remainder of the demonstrative pronouns are pretty much like their counterparts in English. Before we check our mastery of these concepts, there are a couple of tricks you can do with demonstratives that might come in handy.

Fleurette   Some Tricks Demonstratives Do for You   Fleurette

True to their name, demonstrative pronouns exhibit a pronounced presence in the Russian language. They serve a lot of functions other than demonstrating. Two very common places you find them is in the expressions for "the same" and "the wrong". Here's how they work.

Saying "the Same" in Russian.

To say "the same N" in Russian, you need only add the particle же after the appropriate form of the demonstrative pronoun. For example, if someone snooty says that s/he saw the latest French film, Я видел(а), ты знаешь, тот французский фильм "I saw, you know, that French film", to put them in their place retort: Я видел(а) тот же фильм "I saw the same film"—you just add же to the тот. If some tells you that they've been to Monte Carlo, all you have to say is Я был(а) там же: "I've been to the same place". Neat, huh? And, as usual, simplissimo!

Saying "Wrong" in Russian.

To say "the wrong N" in Russian, you need only add the particle не before the appropriate form of the demonstrative pronoun. For example, if that same snoot who went to Monte Carlo buys a new book for a course, you can get her goat by saying, A ты взяла не ту книгу, "You got the wrong book". Or let's say you see some guy who's been bugging you coming out of the mens' room and there is a womens' room next door, just say, Ты пошёл не туда "You went to the wrong place" and test his self-confidence.

Now that we have the basic principles of the demonstrative pronouns, here is an achievement recognition opportunity to appease our egos.

Fleurette   Demonstrate Your Mastery of Demonstratives   Fleurette

Here are a few exercises to test your grasp of the personal in Russian. Choose the correct case form of the pronoun listed to the right of the sentence and type it into the appropriate space.

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Demonstrative Pronoun Exercises
Fill in the Blank with the Correct
Form of the Ghost Pronoun to the Left
Push Correct?

это Где они видели фильм?
Where did they see that movie?

это, то Как они думают об ?
What did they thing about that?
это, то Я не знаю, почему я говорю с дураком!
I don't know why I talk to that klutz!
там, туда
Боря вчера ходил.
Borya went there last night.
так, такой Ира любит спектакли.
Ira loves those kinds of productions.
там, туда
Они отбежали в ужасе.
They ran away from there in horror.
это, то Почему мы обратились к врачу?
Why did we go to that doctor?
так, такой
Это не .
That is not so.
так, такой Я бы не подружился с девушкой.
I would not make friends with such a girl.
так, такой
Он дурак как и отец.
He's the same kind of jerk as his father.
это, то По ошибке он взял книгу.
By mistake he took the wrong book.

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© 1996 Robert Beard