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Demonstratives

In both Spanish and English, demonstratives (English this, these, that, those) function as adjectives (this question, that answer, etc. ) and as pronouns (this [one]; these, etc.).

Demonstratives, by their nature, distinguish between a "this" and a "that" perspective, which in English is not divided further. In English, demonstratives are exceptional in showing number agreement (this/that vs. these/those).

In Spanish, demonstratives forms show both number and gender agreement with the associated noun. In addition, Spanish demonstratives divide the "that" perspective into "near" and "remote." Finally, there are neuter forms for each of the three perspectives. All of this means that Spanish has a total of fifteen demonstrative forms, where English has four.

Demonstrative Adjective and Pronoun Forms Showing Agreement with Noun
Perspective   Singular Plural Examples of use
"This" masculine este estos
  • As adjectives1:
    • Voy a leer este libro y esa revista; aquellos libros no me interesan.
  • As pronouns2, 3 :
    • ¿Prefieres este postre o ese? Yo voy a probar aquel.
feminine esta estas
"That" (Near) masculine ese esos
feminine esa esas
"That" (Remote)4 masculine aquel aquellos
feminine aquella aquellas
Neuter Pronouns5
"This"   esto
  • ¿Qué es esto?
  • Ellos fuman en mi casa, y eso no me gusta.
  • Aquello fue terrible.
"That"(Near)   eso
"That" (Remote)   aquello
  1. Demonstrative adjectives almost always precede their nouns. They occasionally follow when a pejorative meaning is intended:
    • No me cae bien el tipo ese.
  2. Accents: Masculine and feminine demonstrative pronouns are still often written with accents on their stressed syllable (éste, ésas, etc.) to distinguish them from the otherwise identical adjectives, even though the Real Academia Española removed this for most purposes in 1959. But many publications and individuals still place accents on them.
  3. It's important to note that while English uses the word one in the singular to fill in for the missing noun (this book and that one), Spanish does not employ uno or any other word for this purpose, the demonstrative itself being sufficient (este libro y ese).
  4. The aquel series, indicating remoteness, in theory refers to something removed (in time or space) from both speaker and listener. In practice, ese can also serve this purpose, with aquel reserved for something even more removed than something already referred to with ese:
    • Nos gustan todas estas camisas. Pensamos comprar esta, esa y aquella.
  5. Neuter pronouns are used to refer to events or any thing or idea that is, at least temporarily, genderless and numberless. The -o ending does not represent masculine singular (see above).
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