So, imagine that someone points at some penguins that are close to us and asks me : "What are these?". Should I answer with a "These are penguins" Or "They are penguins". I feel like I should say "They are penguins". But now imagin that that person is pointing at some computers, in that case I feel like I should say "These are computers" instead of "They are computers" because computers are objects and penguins are living creatures. Am I right on making that assumption? And I guess I have the same question with questions using "those".

2 Answers 2


The simplest response is to use the same word the person who asked the question used.

If they asked: "What are these?" you could answer: "These are penguins."

But you would be fine answering: "They are penguins."

You could even just answer: "Penguins."


The distinction is not based on whether you are talking about living beings or not.

See more about that here.

In most instances it would be interchangeable to say "these are penguins" or "they are penguins." These/those are demonstrative pronouns that usually only have meaning relative to an observable position. Typically "these here" and "those there." They are often used to distinguish between two sets different things being discussed. More on that here

If someone initially refers to a thing as "this" or several things as "these" then usually responses would be framed in the same language. If you wanted to tell the person that they are not penguins, but there are other penguins somewhere else nearby, you would say, "These are not penguins, but those are." Then you would physically indicate the other group.

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