Welcome to this article on Spanish demonstratives. As demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns are slightly different, we’ll start by looking at the adjectives and then move on to the pronouns.
What is a demonstrative adjective?
Demonstratives demonstrate which thing is being talked about. Adjectives are words that modify nouns. So basically, a demonstrative adjective is a word that you put before a noun, and it specifies which noun you’re referring to if there’s any ambiguity (e.g. ‘this egg’ vs. ‘that egg’).
In English, we distinguish between ‘this’ and ‘that.’ In Spanish, there’s one additional level. Spanish speakers differentiate between ‘that which isn’t right next to me but isn’t too far away’ and ‘that all the way over there.’ In other words, there are two different versions of ‘that’ depending on how far away the object is (more on that later)!
So, the Spanish demonstrative adjectives are these:
this __ (masculine)
this __ (feminine)
these __ (masculine plural)
these __ (feminine plural)
that __ (masculine)
that __ (feminine)
those __ (masculine plural)
those __ (feminine plural)
that __ over there (masculine)
that __over there (feminine)
those __ over there (masculine plural)
those __ over there (feminine plural)
How do Spanish demonstrative adjectives work?
Because they’re adjectives, we put them before nouns. The demonstrative adjective that you use has to agree in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) with the noun it’s modifying. We’ve listed all the gender and number options above.
Here are some examples for you to read, to help give you some context and understand how to use Spanish demonstrative adjectives.
Este anillo es de oro.
This ring is made of gold.
Compré este libro ayer.
I bought this book yesterday.
Esta mañana fui al mercado.
This morning I went to the market.
Me encanta esta falda.
I love this skirt.
Estos perros son míos.
These dogs are mine.
Vendrá uno de estos días.
He will come one of these days.
Estas máquinas están rotos.
These machines are broken.
Quiero comprar estas chaquetas.
I want to buy these jackets.
Ese autobús va al centro.
That bus goes to the city center.
Dame ese bolígrafo.
Pass me that pen.
Esa mochila es de Beatriz.
That backpack belongs to Beatriz.
Me gusta esa foto.
I like that photo.
Esos zapatos son de muy buena calidad.
Those shoes are really good quality.
¿Estás cómodo llevando esos vaqueros?
Are you comfortable wearing those jeans?
Esas arañas me dan miedo.
Those spiders frighten me.
La señora robó una de esas manzanas.
The lady stole one of those apples.
Aquel edificio es donde trabaja mi madre.
That office over there is where my mother works.
Me gusta mucho aquel chico.
I really like that guy over there.
Aquella chica no deja de mirarme.
That girl over there won’t stop staring at me.
No nos conocíamos en aquella época.
We didn’t know each other back then (far away in time, in the distant past).
Aquellos hombres son artistas.
Those men over there are artists.
No he estado en aquellos países.
I haven’t been to those (faraway) countries.
Aquellas mujeres son muy inteligentes.
Those women over there are very intelligent.
Me gustaría caminar por aquellas montañas.
I’d like to walk around those mountains over there.
For native English speakers, correctly differentiating between ese (that) and aquel (that over there) can take a while to master. Here are some sentences that make use of ‘this,’ ‘that,’ and ‘that over there’ so you can see the difference.
Carlos, no me basta esta hoja de papel. ¿Me pasas ese cuaderno? Si no, me voy a usar aquel ordenador.
Carlos, this sheet of paper isn’t big enough. Would you pass me that notebook? Otherwise I’ll go use that computer.
Rafael quiere entrar en esta iglesia, y Nerea quiere visitar ese museo en la próxima calle. Yo quiero caminar hasta aquella torre afuera del pueblo.
Rafael wants to go into this church, and Nerea wants to visit that museum in the next street. I want to walk to that tower outside the village.
Este hombre es mi marido. Ese señor a tu lado es su padre. Aquellos niños jugando afuera son nuestros hijos.
This man is my husband. That man next to you is his father. Those children playing outside are our children.
No toques este bolígrafo. Es mío. Ese lápiz es tuyo. O puedes buscar aquellos crayones que te compró Mamá ayer.
Don’t touch this pen. It’s mine. That pencil is yours. Or you can look for those crayons that Mommy bought you yesterday.
What is a Spanish demonstrative pronoun?
Now we’re done with adjectives, let’s look at pronouns. As we said earlier, demonstratives demonstrate which thing someone is talking about. Pronouns are words that replace nouns. So basically, a demonstrative pronoun is a word that you use instead of a noun, and it specifies which noun you’re referring to.
Demonstrative pronouns are useful when we don’t have to give as much context. If we already know we’re talking about cars, we don’t need to say ‘this car’ and ‘that car.’ Instead, we can just say ‘this one’ and ‘that one.’
So, the Spanish demonstrative pronouns are these:
this one (masculine)
this one (feminine)
these ones (masculine plural)
these ones (feminine plural)
that one (masculine)
that one (feminine)
those ones (masculine plural)
those ones (feminine plural)
that one over there (masculine)
that one over there (feminine)
those ones over there (masculine plural)
those ones over there (feminine plural)
An important note on spelling...
Until recently, Spanish demonstrative pronouns (except the neuter ones, mentioned below) had an accent on them. This was to differentiate between Spanish demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns, and you used to have to remember which ones took accents. It looked something like this:
Me gusta esta casa. (I like this house.) vs. Me gusta ésta. (I like this one.)
Aquel gato es mío. (That cat is mine.) vs. Aquél es mío. (That one is mine.)It’s good for you to be aware of this, because a heap of what you read will still use the old rules. But what’s the new rule? Leave out the accents altogether!
How they work
Because they’re pronouns, they’re used to replace nouns. The Spanish demonstrative pronoun that you choose has to agree in gender and number with the noun it’s replacing. And don’t forget to differentiate between ‘that’ and ‘that over there’!
Demonstrative pronouns are a little different from Spanish demonstrative adjectives, because, as well as masculine and feminine forms, you have a kind of genderless form, called the ‘neuter’ form.
It’s used when we’re not referring to a particular noun. It can be used to refer to ideas, statements, or sometimes objects, but not living things (if we’re talking about a person or animal, we need to figure out its gender and use the corresponding masculine or feminine pronoun).
The neuter ones:
that (more distant)
Look through these sentences and see if they make sense!
Este es mi coche.
This one is my car.
Dame otro bolígrafo. Este no escribe.
Give me another pen. This one doesn’t work.
Esta es mi falda favorita.
This skirt is my favorite one.
En una oficina como esta, hay que trabajar duro.
In an office like this one, you have to work hard.
Estos dos son los míos.
These two are my ones.
A ver si estos funcionan.
Let’s see if these ones work.
Estas son mejores que aquellas.
These ones are better than those ones over there.
Me encantaría tener notas como estas.
I’d love to have grades like these ones.
(NEUTER) Esto me hace feliz.
This (situation/environment) makes me happy.
(NEUTER) ¿Quién ha hecho esto?
Who’s done this?
Ese es mejor que este.
That one is better than this one.
No me gusta este hombre. Prefiero ese.
I don’t like this man. I prefer that one.
Esa es la mía.
That one is my one.
No quiero esta vela. Quiero esa, la rosa.
I don’t want this candle. I want that one, the pink one.
Esos son los mejores.
Those ones are the best.
Nos gustan estos libros, pero nos gustan también esos.
We like these books, but we also like those ones.
Esas sí que son valientes.
Now those ones—they’re brave.
¿Que cuáles flores me gustan? ¡Me encantan esas!
Which flowers do I like? I love those ones!
(NEUTER) ¡Eso es, campeón! ¡Muy bien!
That’s it, buddy! Well done!
(NEUTER) Quiero que pare todo eso.
I want all that to stop.
Aquel sería el mejor.
That one over there would be the best one.
No me gusta este traje. Voy a comprar aquel.
I don’t like this suit. I’m going to buy that one over there.
Aquella fue la época más violenta.
That was the most violent era.
Aquellos son tuyos. Esos son míos.
Those ones over there are yours. Those ones (a bit closer) are mine.
¿Son aquellos tus zapatos?
Are those ones your shoes?
Aquellas viven fuera de la ciudad.
Those ones live outside the city.
Mis películas favoritas son aquellas con actores poco conocidos.
My favorite movies are those with unknown actors.
(NEUTER) Aquello es lo que te espera.
That’s what awaits you.
(NEUTER) No me meto en todo aquello.
I’m not getting involved in all that.
Hopefully this article has shown you the difference between adjectives and pronouns, and taught you how to use the demonstrative forms of each. Try and spot them when you’re reading in Spanish, and think about whether you think they’re adjectives or pronouns.