Demonstrative Pronouns

Spanish for Beginners

Suerte shirt
Me probé muchas camisas. Voy a comprar ésta. (I tried on many shirts. I'm going to buy this one.). Raos/Creative Commons.

If you've already learned the demonstrative adjectives of Spanish, you'll find it easy to learn the demonstrative pronouns. They serve basically the same purpose, acting as the equivalent of "this," "that," "these" or "those" in English. The main difference is that they (like other pronouns) stand for nouns rather than modify them.

List of Demonstrative Pronouns

Below are the demonstrative pronouns of Spanish. Notice that they are identical to the adjectives, except that most traditionally use accent marks and that there is a neuter form (adjectives don't have a neuter form).

Singular masculine

  • éste (this)
  • ése (that)
  • aquél (that)

Plural masculine or neuter

  • éstos (these)
  • ésos (those)
  • aquéllos (those)

Singular feminine

  • ésta (this)
  • ésa (that)
  • aquélla (that)

Plural feminine

  • éstas (these)
  • ésas (those)
  • aquéllas (those)

Singular neuter

  • esto (this)
  • eso (that)
  • aquello (that)

The accents do not affect the pronunciation, but are used merely to distinguish adjectives and pronouns. (Such accents are known as orthographic accents.) The neuter pronouns do not have accents because they have no corresponding adjective forms. Strictly speaking, the accents aren't mandatory on even the gendered forms if leaving them off wouldn't create confusion. Although the Royal Spanish Academy once required the accents, it no longer does, but neither does it reject them.

Use of the pronouns should seem straightforward, as they are used basically the same in both English and Spanish. The key difference is that Spanish requires use of the masculine pronoun when it substitutes for a masculine noun, and use of the feminine pronoun when it substitutes for a feminine noun. Also, while English does use its demonstrative pronouns standing alone, it also often uses forms such as "this one" and "those ones." The "one" or "ones" shouldn't be translated separately into Spanish.

The difference between the ése series of pronouns and aquél series is the same as the difference between the ese series of demonstrative adjectives and the aquel series. Although ése and aquél can both be translated as "that," aquél is used to refer to something farther away in distance or time.

Examples:

  • Quiero esta flor. No quiero ésa. (I want this flower. I don't want that one. Ésa is used because flor is feminine.)
  • Me probé muchas camisas. Voy a comprar ésta. (I tried on many shirts. I'm going to buy this one. Ésta is used because camisa is feminine.)
  • Me probé muchos sombreros. Voy a comprar éste. (I tried on many hats. I'm going to buy this one. Éste is used because sombrero is masculine.)
  • Me gustan esas casas. No me gustan aquéllas. (I like those houses. I don't like those over there. Aquéllas is used because casa is feminine and the houses are distant from the speaker.)

Using the Neuter Pronouns

The neuter pronouns are never used to substitute for a specific noun. They are used to refer to an unknown object or to an idea or concept that isn't specifically named. (If you would have occasion to use a neuter plural, use the plural masculine form.) The use of eso is extremely common to refer to a situation that has just been stated.

Examples:

  • ¿Qué es esto? (What is this [unknown object]?)
  • Esto es bueno. (This [referring to a situation rather than a specific object] is good.)
  • El padre de María murió. Por eso, está triste. (Mary's father died. Because of that, she's sad.)
  • Tengo que salir a las ocho. No olvides eso. (I have to leave at eight. Don't forget that.)