Spanish Demonstrative Adjectives

In order to understand concepts better, sometimes we need to go back and recall some basic concepts. 

Please keep in mind that an Adjective is a word used to determine or qualify a noun.

A demonstrative adjective is a word that is used to indicate a relation of place, expressing the proximity of the person with whom or of whom one speaks. They are always placed before the noun; otherwise, they would be pronouns. They should also match the gender and number of the nouns they accompany. 

Understanding This and That

When you want to point to something, you often use demonstrative adjectives or pronouns. For example, imagine that you are in a café in Spain. You are selecting un pan, or a bread roll, from a glass case. The waiter is waiting with his tongs to select the roll you want. He points to one, which isn’t the roll you want. “No,” you say, pointing to the one nearest you. “Not that roll, this one.”

While English only has two options—this for something close to you, and that for something farther away—Spanish has three: this, that, and that over there. The third option implies an even greater distance.

To get a better understanding of the difference between that and that over there, imagine yourself standing with a friend at a harbor. Your friend tells you, “I’d like to own that boat.” You point to one at the other end of the dock, asking, “That one?” “No,” he tells you. He indicates a boat on the horizon. “That boat, way over there.”

Demonstrative Adjectives in Spanish

Study the table of demonstrative adjectives below. Notice that they change according to the gender and quantity of the noun they describe.

CloseMasculineFeminine
thisesteesta
theseestosestas
Farther Away
thateseesa
thoseesosesas
At a Distance
that (over there)aquelaquella
those (over there) aquellosaquellas

Por ejemplo:

¿Puedes ver aquel barco?

Can you see that boat over there?

Aquellas montañas me parecen muy altas.

Those mountains over there seem to me very tall.

Esos lápices son de Pamela.

Those pencils are Pamela’s.

Esta revista es interesante.

This magazine is interesting.

Demonstrative Pronouns

The main difference between a demonstrative adjective and a demonstrative pronoun is that the adjective comes before a noun (“Quiero este pan”) while the pronoun can stand on its own (“Quiero éste”).

In English, the difference can be characterized in this way:

  • “I want that roll.”

demonstrative adjective

  • “I want that.”

demonstrative pronoun

You can review demonstrative pronouns in the following table.

CloseMasculineFeminine
this (one)ésteésta
these (ones)éstoséstas
Farther Away
that (one)éseésa
those (ones)ésosésas
At a Distance
that (one over there)aquélaquélla
those (ones over there)aquéllosaquéllas

Notice that the demonstrative adjectives and pronouns are exactly the same … except for one small difference: the accent mark.

You may also be interested to know that if you don’t know whether something is masculine or feminine, there is a neuter form for each of the above demonstrative pronouns.

esto
eso
aquello

Use these forms only if you’re referring to an abstract idea or an unknown object. For example...

¿Qué es eso? What is that?

Esto no me gusta

I do not like this

Aquello fue una pesadilla

That was a nightmare

Eso fue solo un malentendido

That was just a misunderstanding

Quiero comprar ésos.

I want to buy those.

Aquél es mío.

That one over there is mine.

Éstos son míos.

These are mine.

A Note of Caution: Accent Marks

As mentioned before, accent marks are very important in Spanish, because a misplaced or missing accent mark can completely change the meaning of a word. For example, think of the words:

esta ésta está

The first (esta) is an adjective that means “this ____”
The second (ésta) is a pronoun that means “this.”
The third (está) is a verb that means “is.”

In the next lesson we’ll work on Spanish Descriptive Adjectives.


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