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We see THESE families that are desperate for housing. Council houses (see: 12:19-12:24)

We see THE families that are desperate for housing.

I, as a non-native speaker of English, would think that we are talking about a specific group of people, which would require "the" rather than "these". And the sentences seem to be the same to me, however as a non-native speaker I can't be %100 sure.

So, I would like to ask is there a difference between the sentences above? If there is no difference, can we use "these or this in place of "the" as a definite article without causing any change in the meaning of the sentence? For instance:

1- Did you see the man wearing a blue shirt?

2- Did you see this man wearing a blue shirt?

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The determiner these is used to refer to two or more people or things that are being (or have recently been) demonstrated. Perhaps the speaker is pointing at or otherwise indicating them, or they are being displayed.

It is also used to distinguish them from others that might be comparable. In your examples, the families that are desperate for housing includes every such family, whereas these [desperate] families refers to only those desperate families that have been or are being indicated—it leaves out any desperate families that are (or were) not indicated.

The distinction is exactly the same as for simple nouns: these books vice the books. Nor does number change things; it’s also the same for this book vice the book.

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  • Thanks I mostly understood it. I like this point: ".... these is used to refer to two or more people or things that are being (or have recently been) demonstrated. ..." Yes, that is right. The woman saying this on TV is actually talking about those displayed in the program. However, I see this usage in other times, too. if you look at my last examples there is only one person. "Did you see THE/THIS man wearing a blue shirt?" So, as you see there is no else to leave out. In such a sentence (I made them up, by the way), can we use "...this man wearing ...." instead of "... the man wearing ...."?
    – Yunus
    Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 4:33
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    This is sometimes used in casual speech to replace the indefinite article. "I saw this man walking down the street..." instead of "a man". The usage is often frowned on, so I wouldn't recommend it to language learners. Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 8:54

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