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Could you please tell me which one is correct?

What are these?
— _____________.

A. These are pens.
B. Those are pens.
C. They are pens.

(This is from an English exercise book of junior high school students in China.)

  • You could improve this question by telling us where this comes from (i.e., Is it an exercise from a textbook? Or something you wrote yourself?) and why you’re asking. All three are correct responses, but, without any further details, it’s hard to say much else. – J.R. Jan 5 at 13:47
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They are all right depending on the context.

These are pens would be used if you have the pens next to you or in your hand.

Those are pens would be used if the pens are a short distance away.

They are pens would be the simplest answer.

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    I don't understand why you say that 'they' has anything to do with the distance. Could you explain? – chasly from UK Jan 5 at 13:50
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What are these? _____________.

A. These are pens. B. Those are pens. C. They are pens.

They are all possible.

A. If the two speakers are sitting next to each other and the pens are close then both people would say 'these'.

B. If the two speakers are far apart then the person near the pens will say 'these' but the person far from the pens will say 'those'.

C. This version is the simplest answer and is correct.

  • Thanks for your explanation. This is an odd question for students. Here in China, students are taught to answer “these/those” with “they” and “this/that” with “it”. 😓 – user10871523 Jan 5 at 13:54
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    I think it also depends on if we are assuming this is a dialog between two people, or one person answering their own rhetorical question. In the dialog, “What are these?” would likely be answered with “Those are pens” (or “They are pens”). But someone in front of an audience might say, “What are these? These are pens.” It makes me wonder if there is a picture accompanying the question. – J.R. Jan 5 at 13:57
  • For this exercise, no pictures attached. But in the textbook, even there are pictures, “they” is used all the time. The textbook is in Canadian English. – user10871523 Jan 5 at 14:07
  • "Here in China, students are taught to answer “these/those” with “they” and “this/that” with “it” - I think that is a good rule-of-thumb. It is perhaps the least susceptible to error. – chasly from UK Jan 5 at 14:51

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