I was writing something in a scientific context and came across this issue. (I have a feeling that I haven't searched the archive far enough and this might be a duplicate.)

In a sentence like

Whose cat is more beautiful than the cats of their adjacent neighbours?

I would like to use a demonstrative pronoun in place of 'the cats'. Suppose that a neighbour always has a cat.

  1. Is 'those' grammatically correct? I'm not sure because 'those' refers to 'cat', which is singular.

  2. If 'those' is correct, can 'that' be used as well? I'm not sure because it doesn't convey the plurality of cats in the neighbourhood.

  3. If 'that' is not correct, would the use of 'that' in a colloquial context sound strange? (I'm not a native speaker.)

  • 1
    So your audience has only one cat and more than one neighbour has one or more cats? Those sounds right unless each neighbour has one cat and you compare with one cat at a time, then Whose cat is more beautiful than that of their adjacent neighbour? otherwise Whose cat is more beautiful than those of their adjacent neighbours? – mplungjan Apr 29 '13 at 11:20
  • Each member of the audience has only one cat, and each of his or her next-door neighbours also has one cat. I'm comparing one cat to all cats next door. Do you mean that 'those' means 'those cats' and not 'those cat'? – Taiki Apr 29 '13 at 12:00
  • Yes. That cat, those cats – mplungjan Apr 29 '13 at 12:03
  • OK. My question was a bit silly; 'those' would of course mean 'those cats'. What I meant to ask was that if a demonstrative pronoun is plural, the noun it refers to ('cat' in this case) is automatically pluralised, right? – Taiki Apr 29 '13 at 12:07
  • "Those" does not refer back to "cat" but forward to "the cats of their neighbours". – user21497 Apr 29 '13 at 13:30

The sentence should be like this:

[The Jones family,] whose cat is more beautiful than those of their neighbours,....

The word "adjacent" is superfluous. If you want to talk about neighbors who live immediately next door, then use their next door neighbours.

  • Thank you about 'adjacent'. So are you saying that a plural demonstrative can 'plurally' refer to a singular noun? – Taiki Apr 29 '13 at 12:16
  • The plural demonstrative "those" refers to "the cats of their neighbours", not "the cat of their neighbours". In the former case, each neighbour has a cat; in the latter case, all the neighbours have only one jointly owned cat. – user21497 Apr 29 '13 at 13:28
  • OK. And in the latter case, we would use 'than that of the neighbours', right? – Taiki Apr 29 '13 at 13:32
  • Yes, if all the neighbours have only one jointly owned cat, then it has to be "than that of their neighbours" because it's just one cat. – user21497 Apr 29 '13 at 13:33
  • OK. Thank you! Now I think I can mark the question as answered with your reply and comments. – Taiki Apr 29 '13 at 13:52

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