A demonstrative pronoun is a noun (اسم) which is used to point to something that has already been mentioned in some form or another. The pointing is either near (“this”), medial, or distant (“that”). For example:
هذا كتاب مبين
This is a clear book
كلما رُزقوا منها ... قالوا هذا الذي رُزقنا من قبل
Whenever they are to be given sustenance therein,
they shall say, “this (i.e. this sustenance) is what we have been given prior.”
The demonstrative pronoun itself is definite.
The Demonstrative Pronouns and Their Meanings
The demonstrative pronouns are as follows. The purpose of displaying these is not for the reader to memorize them; they are simply presented here for reference and the ones that are popularly used are discussed further down.
ذا، ذاءِ، ذائِهِ، ذاؤُهُ، آلِكَ
ذي، تي، ذِهْ، ذِهِ، تِهْ، تِهِ، تا، ذاتُ
The charts below single out the demonstrative pronouns that are by far the most popular. The charts also show the different pluralities, genders, and how to achieve proximity or distance in the pointing by utilizing the prefix ها and the suffixes لـِ and ك. The singular and plural forms of each demonstrative pronoun are indeclinable and their endings are fixed as displayed.
Near Proximity (“this”)
هٰذانِ / هٰذَيْنِ
هٰتانِ / هٰـتَيْنِ
ذانِ / ذَيْنِ
Distant Proximity (“that”)
ذانِكَ / ذَيْنِكَ
تانِكَ / تَيْنِكَ
As one will notice, near proximity is achieved by prefixing the demonstrative pronoun ذا with ها – one of the particles of prodding, translated loosely as “Lo” or “Hey.” Medial proximity is achieved by simply leaving the demonstrative pronoun as is, and this is only realized for the masculine gender. Finally, distant proximity is achieved by appending the 2nd person pronominal suffix and the particle لـ before it. And it is also permissible to combine the ها and the pronominal suffix in one word, as in “هذاك”.
The 2nd person pronominal suffix will, in fact, inflect for gender and plurality – causing the demonstrative pronoun to vary, as in “ذلكما”, “ذلكم” and so forth. The inflection of this suffix is based on the gender and plurality of the audience and not the entity being pointed at. Thus, speaking to a group of men, for example, one would say “ذلكم الكتاب”. Notice that the pronominal suffix has changed based on the audience, not based on the plurality and gender of the word كتاب.
Some Secondary Notes
Notice, briefly, that each of the plurals listed in the charts above have a silent واو; it is not to be pronounced. Moreover, many of the الف in demonstrative pronouns have been omitted, and this has been indicated by placing a small الف atop the letter prior, as in “هٰذا”. This is done simply for ease since these words are used so commonly.
Below are a few examples of the usage of demonstrative pronouns. There are many things to take note of: Notice what happens in إضافة. Notice the difference in translation based on whether the thing being referenced has the definite article, Al, and when it does not. Notice that the plurals may only be used for humans. And so forth.
the plurals are used for, and only for, human entities
if the referenced entity does not begin with Al, a full sentence results; compare “this book” and “this is a book”
those are the righteous
أولئك هم الراشدون
but that’s not always the case
this is what we were provided
هذا الذي رزقنا
if the entity being referenced is a مضاف, the demonstrative pronoun must follow the entire إضافة structure
this is my inkpot
this inkpot of mine