these / those

VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
Chuck is going on a date with a girl and his sister catches up with him with a bunch of flowers, handing it to him:
-- Hey, so, these are left over from the party. Take those.
Chuck, TV series

Why is it first these and then those? Thanks.
 
  • Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    The first one has to be "these" because she's holding them or has just stopped holding them. The second one can use either these or those: it's entirely the speaker's choice.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    In my opinion, no. We would use "take them" to mean "don't give them back to me", whereas the intended meaning is probably "give them to your date".
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Yes, she definitely wants him to give the flowers to his date. But why would "them" mean "don't give them back to me", could you explain please? Those and them here seemed to be almost identical pronouns, how can one of them change the meaning so much?
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I just don't understand how to use these pronouns in other contexts if I don't understand the usage here. She refers to the flowers as "these" and in a sec, as "those", which sounds a bit awkward to me. I thought, "them" instead of "those" would be more neutral.
    "Don't give them back to me" -- why would anyone interpret the OP phrase like this in the given context... Or there shuld be a noun to use "them"?

    -- Hey, so, these flowers are left over from the party. Take them.:tick:
    :confused:
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    The "these/those" difference is exactly parallel to the "this/that" difference. Sometimes there is no reason to prefer one over the other, and the speaker can choose. I believe this is one such case. I could invent "reasons" but I would have no way of knowing whether any of them were the actual reason. Perhaps she didn't want to use the same word twice. Perhaps she felt connected to the flowers the first time and more distant the second time. I have no idea, and as a listener, I really don't care. I treat the sentence in the same way regardless. The difference with the "them" version is that it is a pronoun referencing the previous "these", and in a short sentence such as "take them" we interpret it as an immediate reference : "take the flowers now, from me", rather than a suggestion of a future action.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you!
    But I'm really confused about "them".:(
    The difference with the "them" version is that it is a pronoun referencing the previous "these", and in a short sentence such as "take them" we interpret it as an immediate reference : "take the flowers now, from me", rather than a suggestion of a future action.
    The context tells us about a future action, isn't it? And both those and them refer to the flowers she's handing over to him.
    "Take the flowers now, from me" -- isn't it what "those" also indicate?
    I.e., again, what I don't understand is how a simple choice between those and them affects the meaning of the sentence:
    1. Take the flowers away from me, now (them)
    2. Take it and give it to your date. (those)
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Because this is a question of usage. English is not simply about what you find in dictionaries and grammar books, it's also about what we actually say in a given circumstance.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    You're saying that in the given circumstance, "take those" and "take them" mean different things. But I completely don't understand why.

    E.g.: You're buying shoes in a shop. You have tried on ten pairs and your wife's advising you, pointing at one: "Take these/those", and you buy them. Obviously, "them" would not work here. It's clear.

    But in the OP I can't see any difference at all (because you have already referred to the flowers as "these" and I thought you can refer to them later as "them/they")
    :(
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    But in the OP I can't see any difference at all (because you have already referred to the flowers as "these" and I thought you can refer to them later as "them/they")
    Would it sound OK to you if there was an 'it' instead of 'them'?
    A - I have no idea what to say at the wedding by the way of congratulation.
    B - Look at this poem about everlasting happiness. Recite it! Recite that!
    The first one says to me that B wants A to recite the poem now.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The change from "these" to "those" in the original looks pretty odd to me too, Vic; there must have been something in the context to warrant it, though I can't think what that something might have been.

    As regards your "Take them", are you envisaging the stress falling on the pronoun, as it would with either "Take those" or "Take these"? If so, that would would be a less likely option: if we're going to stress a pronoun at the end of a sentence, we're much more likely to use "those"/"these" rather than "them".

    The same is even more true of siares' sentence with "it": we hardly ever stress "it" in end-position.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Would it sound OK to you if there was an 'it' instead of 'them'?
    It would be a reference to a different word, not flowers...
    As regards your "Take them", are you envisaging the stress falling on the pronoun, as it would with either "Take those" or "Take these"? If so, that would would be a less likely option: if we're going to stress a pronoun at the end of a sentence, we're much more likely to use "those"/"these" rather than "them".
    But what would be a reason for stressing a pronoun in this context... Could you tell:)
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well, whether you stress the pronoun or the verb does make a difference to how the sentence would be interpreted. I think this is what's underlying Glasguensis's point in post 4 etc.

    If you say Take them, you're saying "Take the flowers from me [now]".

    If you say Take those, you're saying "I suggest you take those flowers with you [when you go and see your girlfriend]". (Similarly with Take these.)
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    If you say Take them, you're saying "Take the flowers from me [now]".

    If you say Take those, you're saying "I suggest you take those flowers with you [when you go and see your girlfriend]". (Similarly with Take these.)
    I feel I'm still missing something important which prevents me from getting the point of this:oops:
    For example, why can't it possibly be like this:
    If you say Take them, you're saying I suggest you take the flowers with you [when you go and see your girlfriend].

    If you say Take those, you're saying "Take those flowers from me [now]".
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Vic, you are missing it because you seem to refuse to accept that there are simply differences in how we use words which are unrelated to their grammatical function or dictionary definition. There is a well-known fairytale called "Little Red Riding-hood". We don't say "small", or "scarlet", even though these would be grammatically correct and essentially identical in meaning.
    Although that example is very different, it's the same phenomenon at work: we simply don't use pronouns identically, and it isn't always for some logical reason which you can construct a "rule" about.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Tell please which pronoun you would use here:
    These flowers
    are left over from the party. Take ?????.

    Were there a lot of flowers leftover from the party or just this one bunch?
    We don't know. She just comes out of the house with a bunch of flowers.
    There is a well-known fairytale called "Little Red Riding-hood". We don't say "small", or "scarlet", even though these would be grammatically correct and essentially identical in meaning.
    But there's logic here why it is not "small" anyway. The difference is like between "little girl" or "small girl".
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Did you not see the party? She did. She knows how many flowers are left even if we don't and will speak accordingly.
    I just rewatched the party scene -- we weren't shown any bunch of flowers there.

    But anyway, what difference does it make, could you tell...
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    She might refer to all the flowers from the party and just the one bunch differently. If you didn't see the bunch of flowers, you may have not seen lots and lots of other flowers as well.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    She might refer to all the flowers from the party and just the one bunch differently. If you didn't see the bunch of flowers, you may have not seen lots and lots of other flowers as well.
    Do you mean "these" refer to all the flowers from the party and "those" to that bunch, right?
    -- Hey, so, these are left over from the party. Take those.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Tell please which pronoun you would use here:
    These flowers are left over from the party. Take ?????.
    I personally would not say "Take" anything. I'd say "Give them to your date". But English generally offers numerous ways of saying pretty much the same thing, and it's the speaker who chooses. Sometimes we as listeners infer a logical reason for why the speaker has chosen one alternative rather than another. Most of the time we don't. Even when we do we are sometimes mistaken. To think that you will be able to tell from someone's sentence exactly what they are thinking is simply fantasy, even when they're trying their best to communicate their thoughts. I don't think English is unique in this respect, but it does seem to have a richness of alternatives which learners find difficult to navigate.

    But there's logic here why it is not "small" anyway. The difference is like between "little girl" or "small girl".
    Which is itself an arbitrary preference.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    It's more about failing to understand the explanations than the OP speaker's meaning of the phrase I think...:(
    I personally would not say "Take" anything. I'd say "Give them to your date".
    Is it the inserting of the "flowers" that makes this sentence so different now?
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Hi,

    I would have failed to perceive a difference in meaning between "Take them" and "Take those" offhand (except for the fact that "those" is more emphatic), so I'm glad you asked the question and Glasguensis (and other forumers) shared their thoughts. It really does make perfect sense. To quote Glasguensis, it's really just idiomatic usage, Vic. If you say "Take them", you cannot stress "them", so the emphasis falls on "take". In such a short sentence, with a 'strong' verb like "take", it does sound like "Take them away. Take them away from me!". If you're offering something or making a suggestion, "these" (or "those") is a much better bet.

    I was a bit surprised by the change from these to those too (I actually expected there to be two bouquets of flowers: "These are left over from the party, so take those instead"), but —once again— Glasguensis' explanation makes a load of sense:
    Perhaps she felt connected to the flowers the first time and more distant the second time.
    As an actor myself, I'm pleased the actress (or the scriptwriter) thought of that detail, because that kind of variation often happens in real life: you're offering something and mentioning it for the first time, so you say "This is a bouquet...", and then you don't want to sound like you're being overly generous (because that would be embarassing for the other person), so you treat the whole thing with greater distance / detachment, as if it wasn't much: "Take that...". Maybe I'm over-reading it.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you everyone for the replies!

    I couldn't imagine "take" might be so "strong" a verb which pull so much emphasis on himself. I can't even still feel that.

    So, I take it to mean the most natural version here would be the repeating of "these", right?
    Hey, so, these are left over from the party. Take these.

    (even though it's a reference to the same flowers)
     

    Highland Thing

    Senior Member
    English, Welsh
    VicNicSor, I'd just like to add that as far as I'm concerned (as a native British English speaker), there's nothing at all wrong with 'take them', with either word stressed (depending on meaning).The original 'take those' is OK too, but not the most natural way to express the situation neutrally - it's only really natural if she's stressing the word 'those' to point out that they're better than any others he might have or be thinking about getting. It also sounds like an Americanism and something a young person would say, along with now customary surprising intonation. A lot of language advice given on this forum tends to be based on totally subjective preferences, not always with due heed paid to actual usage or natural variation across language register and variety. No offence meant.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    ... The original 'take those' is OK too, but not the most natural way to express the situation neutrally - it's only really natural if she's stressing the word 'those' to point out that they're better than any others he might have or be thinking about getting. It also sounds like an Americanism and something a young person would say, along with now customary surprising intonation. ...
    I'm puzzled by this, Highland Thing. Why would "Take those" be an Americanism or something a young person would say?:confused:
     

    Highland Thing

    Senior Member
    English, Welsh
    I'm puzzled by this, Highland Thing. Why would "Take those" be an Americanism or something a young person would say?:confused:
    Not in itself, of course, but used in the above way, following straight after a 'these' that refers to the same item. I don't know the TV series, but I'm guessing from its title it's American, and from the context that the people involved are young. Conversely, I couldn't imagine the same words used in a British context and/or involving older people. You could probably call it prejudice!
     

    Highland Thing

    Senior Member
    English, Welsh
    I'm still puzzled by your comment, Highland Thing. Never mind....
    I was thinking of the language of modern teenage Americans, say - it has it own quite specific stylisations, shall we say, and these are quite different from those of a typical group of British old-age pensioners (for example).
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I couldn't imagine "take" might be so "strong" a verb which pull so much emphasis on himself. I can't even still feel that.
    I think that's not a case of a special verb.
    Going through the wardrobe: don't know what to choose for the party tomorrow.
    This dress is nice - wear this!
    This dress is nice - wear it! (Implies the dress is to be worn now / immediately)
    The difference with the "them" version is that it is a pronoun referencing the previous "these", and in a short sentence such as "take them" we interpret it as an immediate reference : "take the flowers now, from me", rather than a suggestion of a future action.
    I just realised that going on a date with the flowers is not any future action, Chuck is already on his way to the date when his sister catches him with the flowers - he needs to take the flowers from her in this moment.

    So I see no reason why it couldn't be (unstressed) 'them'
    Hey, so, these are left over from the party. Take them. (Take flowers from me now).
    Hey, so, these are left over from the party. Take these. (Do take something - as opposed to zero flowers/gifts you were going to go with originally you clueless moron).
    We would use "take them" to mean "don't give them back to me"
    But this all only works with non-human things then?
    - I'm going to the park, I'll get cotton candy for the kids.
    - Take them!
     
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