Welcome to our grammar lesson about Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns in Spanish (“Adjetivos y pronombres demostrativos”).
Demonstratives are words that indicate the distance between the speaker and something or someone else.
They are equivalent to the English “this – these / that – those”.
In this lesson, we will learn about Spanish demonstratives and how to use them in sentences, with many examples.
At the end you’ll find a Quiz and Exercises for practice.
In English we distinguish between 2 distances (“this – these” = short distance, “that – those” = long distance), but in Spanish there are 3 distances:
The following tables show the demonstrative forms for each distance:
Note: No accent marks on demonstratives!
The rule is no accent marks, in any case!
(You may find older texts with accent marks on some demonstratives, because the rules were different in the past).
Neuter vs. non-neuter forms
In the tables above, we notice that there is one neuter form for each distance.
Next, we will study when to use the neuter forms, and when to use the non-neuter forms.
When do we use the neuter forms?
The most frequent uses of the neuter forms are the following:
Referring to something vaguely
Maybe because the speaker doesn’t know exactly what it is, or he wants to talk vaguely:
No me gusta esto.
I don’t like this.
Esto es muy bonito.
This is very beautiful.
Give me that.
Tell me about that.
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?
Revealing what something is (its fundamental nature)
In sentences whose purpose is to say what something is fundamentally. (“this is a dog”, “that is a house”…)
Esto es un perro.
This is a dog. (we are revealing its nature)
Eso es una casa.
That is a house. (we are revealing its nature)
When do we use the non-neuter forms?
Except for the few cases we have explained for the neuter forms, in any other situation we use the non-neuter forms.
Aquel perro es marrón.
That dog is brown. (The purpose of the sentence is not to reveal its “dog nature”, but to talk about its color)
Esta es mi casa.
This is my house. (The purpose of the sentence is not to reveal its “house nature”, but to talk about who owns it)
Esos libros son interesantes.
Those books are interesting.
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.
Note: when referring to people, always use non-neuter forms:
Esa es María.
That is María.
Aquellas son mis primas.
Those are my female cousins.
Are demonstratives adjectives or pronouns?
Regarding the grammatical classification of demonstratives:
- The neuter forms esto, eso, aquello are always pronouns. We never place them right before a noun.
- The non-neuter forms are considered adjectives if we place them right before a noun. Otherwise, they are pronouns.
Esto es un móvil.
This is a cellphone. (neuter form → pronoun)
Este móvil es mío.
This cellphone is mine. (non-neuter form right before a noun → adjective)
Este es mi móvil.
This is my cellphone. (non-neuter form somewhere else in the sentence → pronoun).
Take this short Quiz to test your knowledge about demonstrative adjectives and pronouns in Spanish:
Which of the following sentences would we translate to Spanish using neuter forms? And which ones using non-neuter forms?
1) This is strange. (talking vaguely about a situation)
2) What is that?
3) That is a book.
4) That book is blue.
5) That is my book.
6) I like that book.
With neuter forms: numbers 1 (because we talk about something vague), 2 (because we ask about the fundamental nature of something) and 3 (because we reveal the fundamental nature of something).
With non-neuter forms: numbers 4, 5 and 6.
Fill the gaps using demonstrative adjectives and pronouns.
Remember to first think whether you need a neuter or a non-neuter form:
1) __ es una bicicleta.
This is a bike. (short distance)
2) __ es mi bicicleta.
This is my bike. (short distance)
3) __ montañas son más altas que __.
Those mountains (medium distance) are taller than those ones (long distance).
4) ¿Qué es __ ?
What is that? (medium distance)
5) __ es un camión.
That is a truck. (medium distance)
6) Me gustan __ anillos.
I like these rings. (short distance)
7) __ es nuestro primo.
That is our cousin. (long distance)
3) Esas – aquellas