I'd like to ask about the usage of they are with things/objects. Is the meaning the same as two other sentences? Can they are replace those are/these are with no difference in meaning? If not, what's the difference? I know that These are/Those are are used depending on how far the object is located.

They are books.

Those are books.

These are books.

To clarify, I'd like to give an example.

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They __________ books.

Of course the answer is They are books.

If I replace the example with the sentence: These are books., would the meaning remain the same as They are books.?

I guess that "they are" is neutral and can mean the same as these are/those are.

What do you think?

They are books. = These are books. in this example? (books are near me) They are books. = Those are books. if the books are far from me.


2 Answers 2


Because they doesn't carry any information about distance, its usually only appropriate in this context when the object has already been identified.

  1. What are these things? They are books.
  1. Where did you put the English books? They are on the top shelf.

You may often replace they with these/those when the sense of distance is appropriate:

  1. What are these things? These/those are books.

Either is appropriate based on your distance from the books.

  1. Where did you put the English books? Those are on the top shelf.

Those here implies "the English books, not the Math or History books." Additionally, "these are over there" would not be appropriate because you yourself are hopefully not on the bookshelf.


A quick browse of the uses of these and those should answer your question.

The choice of pronoun depends on the situation.

A: What do have on top of the cupboard?
B: They are books.

A: What do you have in the boxes?
B: Those are books in the far box. The other boxes are empty.

A: What's in the parcels?
B: These are books in the parcel I'm holding; those are glasses in the parcel on the floor.

These = close to the speaker
Those = further away from the speaker, often being pointed to.
They = refers to some object/s that have already been identified.

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