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While demonstrating objects, can we use the pronoun they?

For example:

A: They are benches.
B: These are benches.
C: Those are benches.

I know B and C are correct, but what about A?

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You can use option A sometimes, but it's never the best choice.

"They" can be certainly be used to refer to a collection of inanimate objects, once we have established what the objects are.

I have three benches in my garden. They were a gift from my grandfather.

Do you see those statues? They cost me $100 each.

But using "they" in place of the pronoun form of "these" or "those" can sound very awkward and wrong, depending on the context.1

For instance, if you pointed to a stack of benches and said "They are benches", that would sound very odd, since we were not talking about benches previously.

On the other hand, if you were responding to a question, "they" could sound more natural.

Me: [pointing] What are those?

You: They are benches.

Here it is OK to use "they", because I have already established what we are talking about by pointing at the objects. But even in this example, it would sound slightly more natural to use "these" or "those".

In short: don't say "They are benches."

1"These" and "those" can be used either as pronouns, e.g. "I want those.", or as adjectives, e.g. "I want those books." In your examples you are using "these" and "those" as pronouns.

  • I agree with this, aside from one thing. In response to What are those?, I would find using these or those to be unnatural. They're benches is, I believe, far more idiomatic. Although I'll note that in this particular response I'd use the contraction. (In such a reply, any pronoun at all could also be dropped—making the answer simply "benches.") – Jason Bassford Jul 26 at 16:24

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