Grace wrote and asked me to settle a dispute at work about using them or those in specific ways in sentences. Here are Grace's examples:
1. A. The workman left them tools in the garage.
B. The workman left those tools in the garage.
2. A. Please take them trash bins to the curb.
B. Please take those trash bins to the curb.
Grace is certain she is correct in choosing the B examples, but she cannot explain why.
Indeed, Grace is correct in saying "those tools" and "those bins." Those is an adjective (a describing word), and it is used correctly before a noun (a naming word) to answer the question "Which ones?" Which bins? Those bins.
Them is not an adjective–it is a pronoun (a word that stands for a noun). In standard English, them cannot be used before a noun to describe it. However, in nonstandard English, them is used that way.
Grammatically speaking, using "them tools" rather than "those tools" is like using "him tools" rather than "his tools." Him, like them, can only be used correctly as a pronoun, but his is both a pronoun and an adjective.
Similarly, writing "them trash bins" is like writing "me trash bins" instead of "my trash bins." Me, like them, is a pronoun, whereas my is an adjective.
Them is an object pronoun, as are these words: me, you, him, her, it, us. Although these pronouns can't be used in standard English to describe a noun, they can stand alone. For example, these sentences are correct:
The workman left them in the garage.
Please take them to the curb.
Of course, in the sentences above, readers and listeners need to know what them stands for, as they would in these examples:
If you are looking for the tools, the workman left them in the garage.
If you want to handle the trash bins for me, please take them to the curb.
In business communication, standard English is what everyone wants and expects. That's why Grace cringes when she hears a coworker say "them tools."
I hope Grace can now explain why her sentence choices are correct. "Those tools" is standard English. "Them tools" is nonstandard for the reasons above.
Because communication is so important to job and career success, I hope Grace can tactfully persuade her coworkers to use standard English when speaking and writing at work.
What is your view?