How to use demonstrative pronouns in Spanish

How to use demonstrative pronouns in Spanish

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated May 5, 2023

Demonstrative pronouns in Spanish should be somewhat familiar to English speakers, as they serve the same function as “this,” “that,” “these” and “those.” As their name implies, they are pronouns that replace nouns to demonstrate what the speaker is referring to. While English uses only four demonstrative pronouns, Spanish has a lot more. And these words change depending on the gender of the object(s) and whether they are plural or singular. 

Heads up: These same words are also used as Spanish demonstrative adjectives, with minor changes in grammar.  Our focus for this article, though, will be to leave you with a clear understanding of demonstrative pronouns in Spanish and how to use them.

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Spanish demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns in Spanish take the place of a noun:

  • Me gusta el taco con queso. (I like the taco with cheese.)
  • Me gusta este. (I like this one.) 

In the above example “the taco” is a noun that serves as the direct object in the first variation of the sentence. Este (literally: “this one”) is a demonstrative pronoun that replaces the word taco in the second variation.

Here are all the demonstrative pronouns in Spanish:

Singular Demonstrative Pronouns
Este libro (This book)Esta cosa (This thing)esto
Ese libro (That book)Esa cosa (That thing)eso
Aquel libro (That book over there)Aquella cosa (That thing over there)aquello
Plural Demonstrative Pronouns
Estos libros (These books)Estas cosas (These things)
Esos libros (Those books)Esas cosas (Those things)
Aquellos libros (Those books over there)Aquellas cosas (Those things over there)

Notice that the demonstrative pronoun in Spanish may change its form based on the gender and quantity of the noun.

As a rule, there is a neutral form for singular demonstrative pronouns but not for plural ones. Neutral pronouns don’t change for gendered nouns. You can use neutral demonstrative pronouns in Spanish  if you don’t know the name or gender of a noun, or if the idea is abstract:

  • ¿Qué es esto? (What is this?)
  • Eso es. (That’s it.)
  • Nunca te dije eso. (I never said that to you.)

“This” in Spanish

Este, esta and esto mean “this” in Spanish. They are used when the object is very close, like so: 

  • Este es el libro que escribí. (This is the book I wrote.)
  • ¿Me presta esta por favor? (Lend this to me please?)

“That” in Spanish

Ese, esa and eso mean “that” in Spanish. They are used when the object is near or within visual range:

  • No me gusta ese. (I don’t like that one.)
  • ¿Me da esa por favor? (Give me that one, please?)

“Those” and “these” in Spanish

  • estos/estas = “these”
  • esos/esas = “those”
  • aquellos/aquellas = “those over there”

Here are some examples to help clarify the above definitions:

  • Lleva estos a la fiesta. (Bring these to the party.)
  • No dejes esas en el avión. (Don’t leave those on the plane.)
  • En Madrid no me gustaron aquellas (In Madrid, I didn’t like those.)

If you’re confused about how these pronouns are used in real conversation, it may help to listen to a video in which native Spanish speakers from Spain refer to aquellas cervezas.

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Spanish demonstrative adjectives

Demonstrative pronouns in Spanish can also be used as adjectives before a noun. These are called demonstrative adjectives.

  • Me gusta esta silla. (I like this chair.)

In this example, esta (this) is an adjective that modifies the noun silla (chair). Which chair? This chair, i.e. the one close to the speaker.

  • ¿Es esta manzana dulce o no? (Is this apple sweet or not?)
  • Esos chicos son amables. (Those guys are nice.)
  • En París aquel museo es gigante. (In Paris that museum is giant.)
  • Roban aquel coche. (They’re stealing that car over there.)
  • Estoy cansada de estas cosas. (I’m tired of these things.)
  • En aquellos tiempos, podía correr un maratón. tomaba puro vino. (Back in those times, I  could run a marathon.. purely drank wine.)

“Aquel” vs. “ese” in Spanish

In English, we only have one word for “that.” In Spanish, there are two: ese and aquel. Aquel means “that one over there.” Aquel is used when the object is further away — in most cases, out of view for both the listener and the speaker. “Further away” is defined a bit subjectively in this case, but the distance can range from across town to across the world: 

  • Agarra ese lápiz. (Hold that pencil.) Note: In this case, the pencil is visible on the table. (The pencil you can see on the table.)
  • Agarra ese. (Hold that.)
  • ¿Te acuerdas de aquel hombre en el parque en Madrid? (Do you remember that man in the park in Madrid?) Note: In this case, the man is currently out of view.
  • ¿Te acuerdas de aquello en el parque? (Do you remember that man in the park?)

In the second example above, note that when replacing a noun, we don’t use aquel. Instead, we use the neutral form, aquello.

This, that and the other: Demonstrative pronouns in Spanish

Demonstrative pronouns in Spanish replace a noun with “this,” “that,” “these” or “those”. They also appear before a noun when you want to say, for example, “this apple” or “that car.” If you’ve ever wondered how to talk about this and that and everything in between, now you know!

So, where to go from here? If you’re from the United States, just remember not to point at things directly with your finger. It can be considered rude in Mexican culture and other parts of Latin America. Use your open hand to gesture (along with the appropriate demonstrative pronoun), and you’ll find success with demonstrative pronouns in Spanish sooner than you expected. 

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

Alison Maciejewski Cortez

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