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I often hear people describe a specific subset of a larger set as "those things that are ________."

Is this correct English? I mean, you could just say "the things that are ________."

Something about the first usage always irked me, but what do you all think?

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You can use either. Those is a demonstrative pronoun that is more specific or emphatic than simple use of the definite article the.

Here's an example where one definitely would prefer those:

Those who have raincoats should put them on now.

But you could say

Those people who have raincoats should put them on now.


The people who have raincoats should put them on now.

Your choice, but the first is less general-sounding, to my ear anyway.

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I think OP sets us on the right track here with a specific subset of a larger set. Where that larger subset is (implicitly or explicitly) associated with the utterance, those [people] is more likely to be used. Plain the (or just nothing) could apply to any people, anywhere, any time - not just the ones being addressed or spoken of. – FumbleFingers Apr 1 '11 at 17:13

Those can be used to identify specific people or things observed by the speaker, or to refer to specific things previously mentioned, known, or understood.

Those are my neighbors there.
Those are weird things.

In your example, there is a difference between "those things that are," and "the things that are." Take for example, "those things that are in that drawer are mine" and "the things that are in that drawer are mine;" I could understand that the first sentence is referring to the things that are now in the drawer, while the second sentence is referring to what the drawer contains, in every moment.

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protected by RegDwigнt Feb 26 '13 at 18:58

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