Demonstrative Adjectives & Pronouns in Spanish – When to Use & What are the differences?

Today let’s back peddle a tad to a more basic topic in Spanish grammar – Demonstrative Adjectives and Demonstrative Pronouns.  You will learn when to use them, how to differentiate them from each other.  The words themselves seem very similar, so pay visual attention to the word-endings, and things will start to make sense as you improve your Spanish skills.

Demonstrative Adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives are simply words that “point” to something else, and in English are words; this/these, and that/those. They precede the nouns they modify and agree with them in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural).

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Este (masc), esta (fem) = this

Estos (masc), estas (fem) = these

Ese (masc), esa (fem) = that

Esos (masc), esas (fem) = those

Aquel (masc), aquella (fem) = that

Aquellos (masc), aquellas (fem) = those

For example:

  • Este libroThis book.
  • Esta casaThis house.
  • Estos librosThese books.
  • Estas casasThese houses.
  • Ese carroThat car.
  • Esa camaThat bed.
  • Esos carrosThose cars.
  • Esas camas – Those beds.
  • Aquel país. – That country.
  • Aquella ciudadThat city.
  • Aquellos paisesThose countries.
  • Aquellas ciudadesThose cities.

Note the differences between Este, Ese & Aquel:

Este (this), estos (these), etc. refers to what is quite near in distance or time, or directly concerns the speaker. Ese (that), esos (these), etc. refers to what is not as near, or directly concerns the person addressed. Aquel (that), aquellos (those), etc. refers to what is even further away from both the speaker and the person addressed.

Try to think how you would use “this”, and “that” in an English sentance, and the words este/a and ese/a will work.

  • Esta novela es interesante.This novel is interesting.
  • Raúl, quiero ese libro que tienes en la mano.Raúl, I want that book that you have in your hand.
  • Raúl, prefiero aquel libro.Raúl, I prefer that book over there. (maybe a library book a couple of shelves over)

The adverbs aquí (here), ahí (there), and allí (over there) correspond to the demostratives este, ese, and aquel, respectively.

  • Pon esta silla aquí.Put this chair (here).
  • Pon esa mesa ahí.Put that table (there).
  • Pon aquella lámpara allá.Put that lamp (over there).

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Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are similar to adjectives however they stand for the noun rather than replace them.  They also agree in number and gender with the nouns they replace.

éste  (masc), ésta  (fem), esto (neuter)  = this (one)

éstos (masc), éstas (fem) = these

ése (masc), ésa (fem), eso (neuter) = that (one)       

ésos (masc), ésas (fem) = those

aquél (masc), aquélla (fem), aquello (neuter) = that (one)

aquéllos (masc), aquéllas(fem) = those

For example:

  • Este cuadro y aquél (cuadro).This painting and that (one).
  • Esta casa no es tan grande como aquélla (casa). – This house is not as big as that (one).
  • Aquel cuadro es muy bonito, tanto como éste.That painting is very beautiful, much like this one.

Notice that the “one” in “this one”, or “that one” is not translated from English to Spanish.

The neuter forms esto, eso and aquello refer to general statements, ideas or an object of indeterminate gender. These forms do not vary in gender and number.

For example:

  • Es un hotel tranquilo y eso les gusta a los huéspedes.It is a quiet hotel and the guests like that.
  • Es una buena pregunta, esto es algo importante.It is a good question, this is important.
  • La construcción del Muro de Berlín fue algo histórico, aquello nunca se olvidará.The construction of the Berlin Wall was historic, never forget that.

Notice how the pronouns (neuter) are not substituting a specific noun, but rather are referencing “unknown” objects.

The common question ¿Qué es esto (eso, aquello)? Uses the neuter forms because the noun’s gender is unknown. After the noun has been mentioned, the form of the demonstrative adjective or pronoun must correspond to the noun.

  • ¿Qué es esto? Es una piedra.What is this? It is a stone.
  • ¿Es grande esta piedra? Sí.Is this stone large? Yes.

NOTE:

You’ve probably noticed that there are no accents in the demonstrative adjectives, but are accents in the pronouns – this definitely is a visual way of differentiating them.  There is no pronunciation difference however.  Note that the neuter pronouns have no accent mark, since there are no corresponding neuter adjectives.

The pronoun éste (ésta, éstos, éstas) also means the latter (the latest, the most recently mentioned); aquél (aquélla, aquéllos, aquéllas) also means the former (the most remotely mentioned).

For example:

  • Ana y Susana; ésta es rubia, aquélla es morena.Ana and Susan; the former is brunette. The latter is blonde.

In English, we usually say “the former and the latter”. In Spanish, the order is reversed: ésta (the latter) comes first.

For examples:

  • Tengo dos cartas de Juan. En ésta escribe en español y en aquélla en inglés.I have two letters from John. The former is written in Spanish and latter in English.
  • Vicente es de Argentina y Harry es de Inglaterra. Éste es de inglés y aquél es argentino.Vicente is from Argentina and Harry is from England. The former is English and latter is from Argentinian.

The definite article (el, la, los, las) followed by ”de” (that of, the one of) or “que” (the one that) functions like a demonstrative pronoun.

For example:

  • El (la) de Luis.That of (the one of) Luis, (Lui’s)
  • Los (las) de Luis.Those of (the ones of) Luis, (Lui’s)
  • El (la) que está aquí.the one that is here.
  • Los (las) que están aquí.the ones that are here.

Examples in sentences:

  • El profesor de Raúl es más estricto que el de Pedro.Raul’s teacher is stricter than Peter’s.
  • El suéter de Nadia es muy parecido al que lleva Marta.Nadia’s sweater is very similar to the one that Martha is wearing.
  • Tu casa es tan grande como la de tus papas.Your home is as great as that of your parents.

photo credit: Oblivious Dude via photopin

photo credit: Simone Lovati via photopin

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