I am a Portuguese High School student and I did an English test last September. This question came up:

You can also get some insight from television and movies, but be careful - not everything you see on the screen is meant to be realistic. But these media do help if you're still trying to learn the language or catch up on some slang, and at the very least, give you something to talk about when you're trying to make a new friend.


What does the word 'these' refer to?

I answered that 'these' refers to 'television and movie. The Teacher said that I was wrong, and I lost some points.

Am I wrong or right?

Please ... I need answers to defend myself.

  • 4
    Media means "mediums of transmission," so "these media" refers to television and movies. What did your teacher say the word referred to? – deadrat Nov 17 '15 at 23:23
  • 1
    Television and movies. – Grizzly Nov 17 '15 at 23:25
  • 1
    Hello, Sandro. deadrat has given the 'correct' answer, but I'm not sure it was all that wise. If you go and show your teacher the error of their ways (I'm assuming 'defend myself' means 'show them I'm right'), you will end up with a bigger problem than a minor injustice. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 17 '15 at 23:26
  • @EdwinAshworth It is something i really need to do, because the teacher now is always bullying me because I said that she was right I know i am right with the answer Television and Movies, the Teacher said it was wrong, the right answer was Media.. – Sandro Madrinha Nov 17 '15 at 23:32
  • 1
    Teachers are often wrong, but telling you you're wrong is not necessarily bullying. Telling a teacher bluntly "you're wrong" is just asking for trouble and never helps you or them. Take it as a learning experience about human nature and move on. – Jeffrey Kemp Nov 18 '15 at 0:27

EDIT It comes down to the meaning of the word "refer" in your test question, which asked, "What does the word 'these' refer to?".

If the question is interpreted as asking for "these [what]", where you need to supply the [what], then the question is asking for a modifier as @deadrat noted in comments. In this case, the appropriate answer would be media. [Similar example: in the phrase "green grass and blue sky", the word 'green' refers to the grass].

On the other hand, if the question is interpreted as asking you to replace the word these with other words from the paragraph, then the question is asking for the antecedent to the anaphor, namely, "television and movies". [Similar example: in the sentence "Annie walked her dog.", the word 'her' refers to Annie, not the dog.]

The 'correct' answer would depend on what refer is asking for. If this is not implicitly or explicitly stated in the broader context of the test, then there is a case for both answers to be considered correct, with the anaphor interpretation arguably the stronger case.

Technically, both are correct. You say these refers to "television and movies", while your comments under your question indicate that your teacher says it refers to "media".

In the immediate phrase these media, these refers syntactically to media. However, the first sentence also specifies the specific media under discussion in the context of the paragraph, so television and movies are the specific media referred to by these (i.e. not novels, paintings, etc).

  • 1
    These doesn't refer to media; these modifies media. – deadrat Nov 17 '15 at 23:54
  • @deadrat Fair enough regarding modifies. However, in the context of this question, media a valid referent of these. I think there's enough breadth to the word refer that the answers of both student and teacher should be allowed. – Lawrence Nov 18 '15 at 11:09
  • At the risk of turning into That Internet Guy Who Has to Have the Last Word, a referent is a pointer. For an anaphoric pronoun (i.e., a following pronoun) the referent is also the antecedent. You should be able to replace the pronoun or the pronoun determiner+noun with the referent. So "these media do help" -> "television and movies do help". You can't do that with these and media. – deadrat Nov 18 '15 at 15:14
  • @deadrat Thanks - that crystallises the issue. I've edited my answer accordingly. – Lawrence Nov 20 '15 at 0:43

I think that "these" refers to medias whose meaning is unrealistic only them while there is some rare medias that are not so.

  • medias is not the plural of media :) – Jeffrey Kemp Nov 18 '15 at 0:24

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