If I want to refer to a bag someone is holding, which of the options below is/are grammatically correct?

  • The bag you are holding (Definitely grammatical but I feel as though the indication the definite article provides isn't as strong compared to that of a determiner like 'this'. Especially when I am right next to the object.)

  • This bag (that) you are holding (Very clear reference to the bag but sounds slightly awkward to my nonnative ears. It is okay to for a relative clause to follow 'this', 'that', 'these' or 'those')

  • This bag, which you are holding (the one that I am the most unsure of; on one hand it doesn't sound as akward as the sentence above but on the other hand I had no luckily finding a grammar rule that would clear my uncertainty.)

I didn't really find any convincing usages of 'This....that' but remember hearing it from other people in casual conversations. I would very much appreciate it if you can provide some links as well.

Many thanks.

  • It's called deixis. You would normally only use "this or "that" deictically, when it is accompanied by some gesture such as pointing or eye-movements. Otherwise, use "the".
    – BillJ
    Jan 3, 2017 at 12:18
  • Thanks. So using 'this' or 'that' with relative pronouns are only normal if I am right next to the other person? In that case, I shouldn't use 'the'.
    Jan 3, 2017 at 23:33
  • Yes, that's correct. But you don't have to use "this" and "that"; you can just use "the". It all depends on how pointed you want your utterance to be.
    – BillJ
    Jan 4, 2017 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


The bag you are holding

is perfectly fine.

That bag you are holding
That man over there!

use "that" when it is further away from you, which would be the case because someone else is holding the bag. Use "this" if it is closer to you.

This bag that I am holding.

In the following cases which or that are used to introduce the adjective phrases

The bag which you are holding.
The bag that you are holding.
That bag which you are holding.
That bag that you are holding.
The bag which is red.
The bag that is red.

either which or that can be used, however usually one tries not to repeat "which" or "that" too many times in a single sentence.

  • Thanks for your answer. So there isn't any rule that forbids the use of relative pronoun after determiners. Is it also correct to say something like 'That bag in your hand'?
    Jan 3, 2017 at 9:22

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