How to use demonstrative adjectives and pronouns in Spanish?

People riding horses.

Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns are used to point out things or people like “this table” or “those students.” There are two important differences between Spanish and English that you’ll need to remember in order to become an expert: 

  1. Spanish demonstratives must agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to.
  2. There are three different demonstratives este (this), ese (that), and aquel (that over there), depending on the distance between the object being referred to, the speaker and the listener.

Are you ready to learn more? Check this out!

Table of Contents

What are demonstrative adjectives in Spanish?

Demonstrative adjectives in Spanish are always placed before the noun and they have a masculine, feminine, singular, or plural form. Take a look at the following table with all the different demonstrative adjectives in Spanish.

thisthatthat over there
singularmasculineeste eseaquel
feminineestaesaaquella


thesethosethose over there
pluralmasculineestos esos aquellos
feminineestos esas aquellas

Like most adjectives, demonstratives este, ese, and aquel must agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to. Let’s see some examples in order to better understand this idea:

masculinefeminine
singular →este zapato
this shoe
esta camisa
this shirt
ese gatito
that kitty
esa mariposa
that butterfly
plural→estos pantalones
these pants
estas blusas
these blouses
aquellos pericos
those parrots (over there)
aquellas ballenas
those whales (over there)

As observed in the examples above, we see that the demonstrative always agrees in gender and number with the following noun. For example, zapato (shoe) and gatito (kitty) are both masculine and singular nouns so we can use the masculine singular forms of the demonstrative: este, ese, and aquel. Similarly, blusas (blouses) and ballenas (whales) are feminine plural nouns so we can use the feminine plural demonstratives: estas, esas, and aquellas.

If you want to know more about gender and number of Spanish adjectives, check out our post!

What are the types of demonstratives in Spanish?

There’s another important difference when using demonstratives in Spanish. In English, there are two types of demonstratives: “this/these” and “that/those.” We use “this/these” to express that the object is close to me (the speaker) or here, while we use “that/those” to express the object that is further away from me or there. But in Spanish, we have three types: este, ese, and aquel. They are classified in three different spaces: we can express that an object is here, there, or over there! Let’s see how they’re used:
  • Close by → este (esta, estos, estas) is used to identify an object/person that is close to the speaker.
  • Near →  ese (esa, esos, esas) is used to refer to an object/person that is near the speaker or away from the speaker but close to the listener.
  • Far away →  aquel (aquella, aquellos, aquellas) is used to refer to an object/person that is far away from both the speaker and the listener.
IMPORTANT

Each type of demonstrative corresponds to the Spanish adverbs aqui (here), ahí (there), and allá (over there).

  • Use este to refer to the object that is aquí (here).
  • Use ese to refer to the object that is ahí (there).
  • Use aquel to refer to the object that is allá (over there).

Let’s take a look at the following picture with the three types of coffee. If you’re at the red marker (lower left corner) and someone asks you, ¿Cuál prefieres? (Which one do you prefer?), you could say:

Spanish_Coffee_img

Me gusta mucho este café. Aunque ese café capuchino también me gusta. Pero prefiero aquel café.

I really like this coffee. Although, I also like that cappuccino. But, I prefer that coffee over there.

Do you know which coffee I’m referring to in each sentence? In the first one, I used the word este. Este is used to refer to an object closest to the speaker. We’re clearly talking about the closest one to us — the caffe latte. Then, we used ese to refer to the one further away from us — so, the cappuccino in the middle. Finally, I used the word aquel to refer to the one that is the furthest away from us, so I’m talking about the black coffee. And because café is a masculine singular noun, we use the masculine and singular forms of each of the demonstrative adjectives.

How to use demonstratives to refer to time?

We can also use demonstratives to place events in time.
  • Use este to refer to the present or to the near past and future.

Esta semana que viene tengo muchísimo trabajo. I have a lot of work this coming week.

Este mes pasado ha sido muy divertido. This last month was really fun.

  • Use ese to refer to the past or to the future.

¿Te acuerdas de ese día? ¡Qué bien lo pasamos! Do you remember that day? We really had fun!

¿Comemos el martes que viene? Ese día no puedo. Are we eating together next Tuesday? I can’t that day.

  • Use aquel to refer to the distant past.

        ¿Te acuerdas de aquella primavera? Éramos unos jovenzuelos.         Do you remember that spring? We were really young.

        Aquel día fue el más feliz de mi vida.         That day was the happiest day of my life.

What are demonstrative pronouns in Spanish?

Just like English, Spanish has demonstrative pronouns. Good news! They have the same forms as the demonstrative adjectives, but are not followed by a noun. Rather, they are used to replace the noun. Take a look at the following examples. 

-Me gusta mucho esta camiseta, ¿Qué opinas? 
I really like this t-shirt, what do you think? 

-¿Sí?  A mí me gusta más esta.  
Really? I like this one much more.

In the first example, we are using a demonstrative adjective (it’s followed by a noun). In the second one, we are using a pronoun to replace the word camiseta (t-shirt) with the pronoun esta (this one). (Recall that camiseta (t-shirt) is a singular feminine word, so we must use esta.

Notice that in English, the equivalent of the pronoun is either “this/that one” or the demonstrative alone (this/these). In Spanish, we just need the demonstrative pronoun to express all of these meanings.

Llévate esta. Take this (one).

How are neuter demonstrative pronouns used?

In Spanish, we also have neuter demonstrative pronouns. These pronouns end in an o and they are used to replace the noun. Take a look at the forms.

Neuter: esto, eso, aquello

I know, you are wondering when we use these pronouns. Well, we use these forms when we want to point out an object and we don’t know its name, or when we are talking about something that isn’t specific.

¿Me pasas eso?        Can you pass me that?

Pues esto es lo que me ha dicho Juan.       This is what Juan told me.

To learn more about where Spanish demonstrative adjectives and pronouns are placed in Spanish sentences, check out our post on Spanish word order!

To sum up

Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns are used to point out things and people. Let’s recap the main points:

  • Spanish demonstrative adjectives and pronouns have the same forms, but different functions:
    •  Demonstrative adjectives accompany a noun.
    •  Demonstrative pronouns are used to replace nouns. 
  • Demonstratives must agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify. 
  • Unlike English (this/that), there are three different types of demonstratives depending on where they are found in relation to the speaker and the listener: close by (este), away from the speaker (ese), and further away from the speaker and listener (aquel).

If you want to learn more about demonstrative adjectives and pronouns, and learn a strategy for remembering them, check out this fun resource!

Ready to practice? Try out this exercise we’ve created for you! Enjoy!

Are you interested in learning more about Spanish Grammar? Check out our Spanish Grammar Homepage.
Meet The Author:
Author-De Nicolas Foto
Irati de Nicolás Saiz
Irati is a linguist and an experienced University Spanish teacher with a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics.

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Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns activity

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Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns activity

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