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A native English speaker says this sentence, when she mentions about how she got a dog for the first time:

I wasn't sure, but we were looking through all these pictures of little dogs. Lady Barber (see: 15:32-15:39)

The expression "....all these pictures ......." caught my attention, because when she is saying "all these", she is not actually pointing to any pictures at that time, but she is talking about her life years ago.

However, in English classes, people are taught that "these/all of these/all these are used when you are pointing at something.

So, shortly, why does she say "...all these..." instead of saying ".....looking through pictures of ......" (without "all these")?

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  • all these can also refer back in the text to something already mentioned. So, the pointing can be to something in a text, not in reality. But probably not here.
    – Lambie
    Dec 21, 2023 at 19:35

1 Answer 1

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In informal speech, this is sometimes used in place of the indefinite article to indicate that a thing being mentioned for the first time is important.

I opened the front door and there was this man standing there...

So, in the plural, the speaker means We were looking through some pictures or perhaps, as she says 'all these', a lot of pictures.

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    Yes. 'All these' can simply mean 'a lot' - after the crash, the police asked me all these questions. Often associated with impatience. Dec 21, 2023 at 13:40
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    I think MH has hit the nail on the head.
    – Fattie
    Dec 21, 2023 at 21:47
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    +1. It's worth noting that we only use this this way when we don't expect the listener to already be familiar with the thing in question. When we do expect that (even tentatively), we instead use that: "You remember when we opened the front door and there was that man standing there?", or "It's like that old joke about [...]". (I think this is related to the physical/literal senses of "this" and "that", where we tend to use "this" for something in our own space and "that" for something in an shared space.)
    – ruakh
    Dec 22, 2023 at 5:59
  • @ruakh - Yes - that's why I specified 'the indefinite article'. Dec 22, 2023 at 9:05
  • @KateBunting: I did notice that, but it's not enough IMHO, because I think both of my examples allow "a" as an alternative to "that", but neither allows "this" as an alternative to "that". So the choice of "this" as opposed to "that" is stricter than the choice of "a" as opposed to "the".
    – ruakh
    Dec 22, 2023 at 9:10

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