Using Them Correctly

REMEMBER:

GREEN for RIGHT
RED for WRONG

A line from the 1979 Pink Floyd hit reads Teachers leave them kids alone. A great song, but…

Similarly, an English duo – Brian & Michael – had a hit in 1978 with a song called Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs. The song was a tribute to an English artist by the name of Laurence Stephen Lowry, 1887 -1976. Here are some of the lyrics:

Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them factory gates

To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs.

The lyrics also contain them Salford days and them pearly gates.

Again, a brilliant song, but…

The creative artists behind these classic hits are allowed some slack under the term artistic licence. They probably deserve it!

WHY IS THERE A PROBLEM?

There is a tendency to say:

Look at them birds.

instead of either,

Look at these birds.

or

Look at those birds.

or simply

Look at them. (omit birds altogether)

EXPLANATION of RULE:

them above is being used as a DEMONSTRATIVE ADJECTIVE, when it is actually a PERSONAL PRONOUN in the OBJECTIVE CASE

LIST of PERSONAL PRONOUNS in the OBJECTIVE CASE:

me (John welcomed me. Here, John is the SUBJECT and me is the OBJECT.)

you (John welcomed you.)

him (John welcomed him.)

her (John welcomed her.)

us (John welcomed us.)

ye (John welcomed ye.)

them (John welcomed them.)

THE MOST COMMON DEMONSTRATIVE ADJECTIVES:

1. this (refers to one person / thing, etc. – SINGULAR)
2. these (refers to more than one person / thing, etc. – PLURAL of this)
3. that (refers to the SINGULAR)
4. those (PLURAL of that)

I’ll take this book, and you take that one. (one refers to a book)
If I supervise these children, would you keep an eye on those children?

USAGE:

The intention is clear: specific things / people / animals, etc., are being pointed out.

Them pages are torn.
These / Those pages are torn. (These & Those are DEMONSTRATIVE ADJECTIVES)
Who tore them? (Them is a PERSONAL PRONOUN in the OBJECTIVE CASE )

Them cars are parked in the wrong car park.
These / Those cars are parked in the wrong car park.
Park them on the next level.

Them dogs are dangerous.
These / Those dogs are dangerous.
The dogs are dangerous; don’t go near them.

Them people at the bus stop are waiting a long time.
These / Those people at the bus stop are waiting a long time.
Don’t bother joining them; the queue is too long.

Can you see them supporters behind the goal?
Can you see these / those supporters behind the goal?
Go and meet up with them; the atmosphere there is electric.

POINT – OF – INFORMATION:

this, that, these & those are both DEMONSTRATIVE ADJECTIVES & DEMONSTRATIVE PRONOUNS.

EXAMPLE:

I like this coat. (this = DEMONSTRATIVE ADJECTIVE, describing the NOUN coat)
I like this. (this = DEMONSTRATIVE PRONOUN, used instead of the NOUN coat)

QUICK REVISION:

Them / them, the OBJECTIVE FORM of the PERSONAL PLURAL PRONOUN, cannot be used before a NOUN. It’s not meant to prop up a NOUN. It’s a stand-alone word which refers to a specific group. (On rare occasions however, the word refers to an individual as well – mainly for convenience – but is more widely used when referring to plural nouns. If anyone calls to view the house, tell them to wait for me.)

TEST:

Write them or those in these sentences:

1. _______ books were very interesting.
2. _______ cats are too clever for me.
3. I can’t find ______ shoes.
4. Put _______ socks into the top drawer.
5. He sat on top of ______ cushions.
6. ______ rabbits are dead.
7. ______ players are brilliant.
8. He spoke to _____ children who saw the incident.
9 _______ runners are too far ahead.
10. _______ teams are useless.
11. _______ dogs are too far away.
12. _______ films are very scary.
13. _______ houses are like mansions.
14. _______ streets are flooded.
15. _______ programmes are on too long.
16. _______ games are too boring.
17. _______ computer games are amazing.
18.  I’ll take _______ sweets in the blue jar, please.
19. Get rid of ______ papers quickly.
20. Please give me those papers; I need to get rid of _______ quickly.

ANSWERS:

1 to 19. those   20. them

KEY ELEMENT OF LESSON:

The PRONOUN them is a PERSONAL PRONOUN in the OBJECTIVE CASE / FORM. Though local dialects may well be the reason that the word is sometimes used as a determiner – a demonstrative adjective in this case – it’s best to use them as a PRONOUN. Unless, of course, you’re now sitting at a keyboard and about to compose the next number one hit song!

But for the rest of us, them must not be used to specifically describe a NOUN, as for example in, He broke them computers. As computers is already being referred to in them, in effect, it’s being used twice. He broke them is sufficient.

DON’T FORGET:

Look at these / those birds.
Look at them.

Now, where’s that adaptor for the keyboard?


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Top 20 Mistakes in Everyday English
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