1

Can one say

a. I am thinking about that door of the house which is locked.

b. I am thinking about the door of the house which is locked.

c. I am thinking about that brother of John who is a doctor.

d. I am thinking about the brother of John who is a doctor.

?

Does (d) show that the speaker doesn't like that brother of John or not?

Is it disparaging towards the person in question?

Many thanks.

  • It’s hard to say for sure, but most native speakers would say “John’s brother,” not “the/that brother of John.” – J.R. Sep 28 '17 at 11:18
  • Contrasting How's your brother? and How's that brother of yours?, I'd say that although the latter is likely to imply "disdain" for the brother on the part of the speaker, this isn't necessarily the case. You can tell this because it's also quite natural to ask things like How's that wonderful brother of yours? The effect of including that is to emphasise the "unusual, remarkable" nature of the referent in some context-relevant way. There would be very few (contrived) contexts where this could work in example (a) above, which looks decidedly "odd" to me. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 28 '17 at 13:30
2

Since you ask about disparagement, I assume you're referring to that, as in That brother of yours!.

As FumbleFingers comments, its meaning is context-dependent.

That brother of yours is one fine musician.

That brother of yours is such a smart-ass. He shows no respect.

That brother of yours is always getting into mischief.

That brother of yours, what crazy idea won't he think up next!

The locution singles out the brother as a topic of conversation. The brother is being pointed at, so to speak, and the speaker is going to point out something about him.

  • I think you've nailed it with singles out the brother as a topic. It doesn't necessarily imply singling out that brother as opposed to any other brothers, as can be illustrated by the fact that one could say this to someone who has no other brothers. And you could even say something like That paraffin-wax teapot cosmology of yours sounds interesting, where (I hope! :) there's no suggestion that you're identifying one of many "paraffin-wax teapot cosmologies". But in practice the net effect feels like one of "emphasis", regardless of the "literal" meaning. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 28 '17 at 14:47

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