Demonstrative Adjective

Grammar Glossary for Spanish Students

picture of Bueno Aires building for lesson on demonstrative adjectives
Aquella ventana siempre está abierta. (That window up there is always open.). Photo by Hernán Piñera; licensed via Creative Commons.

Definition

An adjective that points out which item, object, person or concept is being referred to. In both English and Spanish, the same words are used for demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives, although in Spanish the masculine and feminine pronouns sometimes use an orthographic accent to distinguish them from the adjectives.

In English, demonstrative adjectives always come before the nouns they refer to.

In Spanish they usually do; placing the adjective afterwards, rare but more common in speech than writing, adds emphasis.

Also Known As

Adjetivo demostrativo in Spanish. They are sometimes called determinantes demostrativos or demonstrative determiners.

The Complete Set of Demonstrative Adjectives

English has four demonstrative adjectives: "this," "that," "these" and "those." In the masculine singular form, Spanish has three demonstrative adjectives: ese, este and aquel. They also exist in feminine and plural forms, for 12 in total, and must match the nouns they refer to in number and gender as shown in the chart below.

EnglishSpanish (masculine forms listed first)
thiseste, esta
that (somewhat distant)ese, esa
that (more distant)aquel, aquella
theseestes, estas
those (somewhat distant)eses, esas
those (more distant)aquellos, aquellas

Differences in English and Spanish

The main difference in the way the two languages use demonstrative adjectives is that, as shown in the chart above, Spanish has three locations that the adjective can point to while English has two.

Although ese and aquel are both translated as "that," ese can be thought of as referring to "that one" and aquel as "that one over there."

Ese and its variations are more common than aquel and its variations. If you don't know which of the two to use, you're almost always safer with ese.

Ese and aquel can also refer to things removed from the speaker in time.

Aquel is especially common in referring to the distant past or to times that are significantly different than the present.

Demonstrative Adjectives in Action

Demonstrative adjectives are in boldface:

  • ¿Qué tipo de adaptador utiliza esta computadora? (What type of adapter does this computer use?
  • Te recomiendo estas canciones para la boda. (I recommend these songs for the wedding.)
  • Nunca compraría ese coche. (I would never buy that car.)
  • Esa semana trabajaron sin descanso. (That week they worked without rest.)
  • Este restaurante del centro ofrece un ambiente relajado para un evento familiar o para una cena romántica para dos. (That downtown restaurant offers a relaxing atmosphere for a family event or for a romantic dinner for two.)
  • Nunca puedo entender por qué aquella ventana siempre está abierta. (I can never understand why that window over there is always open.)
  • Alemania ejercí mucha influencia sobre nuestro país durante aquellos años. (Germany exercised a lot of influence over our country during those years.)
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Erichsen, Gerald. "Demonstrative Adjective." ThoughtCo, Mar. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/demonstrative-adjective-definition-spanish-3078155. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, March 2). Demonstrative Adjective. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/demonstrative-adjective-definition-spanish-3078155 Erichsen, Gerald. "Demonstrative Adjective." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/demonstrative-adjective-definition-spanish-3078155 (accessed May 24, 2018).