Welcome to our grammar lesson about Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns in Spanish.
Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns (“Adjetivos y Pronombres Demostrativos”) are a collection of words that point to something or someone based on its distance to the speaker. They are the equivalent of the English words “this-these” (for short distance), “that-those” (for long distance).
In this lesson, we will learn all about Spanish Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns and how to use them, with example sentences.
At the end you’ll find a Quiz and an Exercise for practice.
1. Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns: the 3 distances
While in English we distinguish grammatically between 2 distances (“this” = short distance, “that” = long distance), in Spanish there are 3 distances. The demonstrative forms for each distance are:
Short Distance Forms
Medium Distance Forms
Long Distance Forms
No accent marks on demonstratives!
There was a time when these forms could have accent marks on them, depending on the specific role they had in a sentence. So you might find texts where you see demonstratives with accent marks.
But nowadays, the rule is no accent marks, in any case. Easy Peasy!
2. Neuter Vs. Non-neuter Forms
In the tables above we notice that, apart from the typical masculine-feminine, singular-plural forms, for every distance there is also one neuter form.
The Spanish student needs to learn when to use the neuter form, and when to use the non-neuter forms.
We will study that next.
Uses of the Neuter Form
There is only one neuter form for each distance. The most frequent uses of the neuter form are the following:
Referring to something vaguely
It can be because the speaker doesn’t know exactly what it is, or he wants to refer to it in a vague manner, just like if in English we said “this thing” or “that thing”:
No me gusta esto.
I don’t like this. (“this thing”)
Esto es muy bonito.
This (“this thing”) is very beautiful.
Give me that. (“that thing”)
Tell me about that. (“that thing”)
Asking what something is (its fundamental nature)
¿Qué es esto?
What is this?
¿Qué es eso?
What is that?
¿Qué es aquello?
What is that?
Saying what something is (its fundamental nature)
Esto es un coche.
This is a car. (we are revealing its nature, what it is)
Eso es una casa.
That is a house. (we are revealing its nature, what it is)
Uses of Non-neuter Forms
Except for the few cases we have explained where we use the Neuter Forms, in any other case we use the Non-neuter forms.
Basically, we can say that whenever the speakers are talking about something of which they know its fundamental nature, and they are discussing something else about it, we use Non-neuter forms. Look at this examples:
Aquel perro es marrón.
That dog is brown. (The speakers know it is a dog, they are discussing its color)
Esta es mi casa.
This is my house. (The speakers know it is a house, they are discussing who owns it)
Esos libros son muy interesantes.
Those books are very interesting (again, they are talking about their qualities, not about what they are fundamentally).
Me gusta este bar.
I like this bar.
Aquellas son las montañas más grandes de esta región.
Those are the highest mountains of this region.
Dame esa guitarra.
Give me that guitar.
Also: when referring to people, ALWAYS use Non-neuter forms:
Esa es María.
That is María.
Aquellas son mis primas.
Those are my female cousins.
3. Are they adjectives or pronouns?
Regarding the grammatical classification of demonstratives:
- The neuter forms esto, eso, aquello are always pronouns.
- The non-neuter are considered adjectives if they are placed right before a noun. Otherwise, they are considered pronouns.
This classification won’t matter to most students, but just in case you wanted to know 🙂
Esto es un móvil.
This is a cellphone. (neuter form → pronoun)
Este móvil es mío.
This cellphone is mine. (non-neuter right before a noun → adjective)
Este es mi móvil.
This is my cellphone. (non-neuter somewhere else in the sentence → pronoun).
4. Practice Spanish Demonstratives
Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge about Spanish Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns:
Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using Demonstrative words for the distance specified in brackets. Remember, in some case you might need to use a neuter form.
After completing the exercise, check the solutions below:
____ 1.(short) es mi carpeta.
____ 2.(medium) montaña es más alta que ____ 3.(long) montañas.
– ¿Qué es ____ 4.(medium)?
– ____ 5. (medium) es un camión.
Me gustan ____ 6.(short) anillos.
____ 7.(long) es nuestro primo.
Solutions to the Exercise: 1 = Esta, 2 = Esa, 3 = aquellas, 4 = eso, 5 = Eso, 6 = estos, 7 = Aquel