Do you need help using this and that in Spanish! Today I’m going to teach you then!
Of course, this and that are the forms for singular in English, so we should include these and those for plural.
This, that, these and those are demonstrative pronouns, which in grammar refer to those words used to identify the person or thing that is being referred to.
The problem is that while in English there are four, in Spanish there are 15 demonstrative pronouns in total!
But it’s not as difficult as it seems. For instance, five of them are rarely used, and other two can be formed simply by adding an s.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
This and that in Spanish
Demonstrative pronouns can be feminine, masculine and neutral, as well as singular or plural.
So this is the full table with all of the 15 demonstrative pronouns the Spanish language has:
We will leave the neutral pronouns for later. For now it suffices to say they are always singular.
The masculine and feminine forms agree in gender and number with the noun they are referring to.
And demonstrative pronouns refer to them in relation to three different spaces: here, there and over there.
Let’s see what we are talking about…
Este, ese aquel / esta, esa aquella
Este is used to refer to a particular person or thing that is close to you. It translates as this.
On the other hand, ese is used to refer to a person or thing that is not near the speaker or as near as another thing. It translates as that.
And what about aquel? This pronoun also indicates that something is not near the speaker, but even a bit farther. It translates as that too, but meaning ‘over there’.
Anyways, native speakers prefer to use ese in those cases too. Aquel sounds a bit formal or literary, so you don’t need to worry too much about it.
Here a modest graphic representation:
este ese aquel
These demonstrative pronouns can be used without the noun when it’s clear what they are talking about. The same as this one, that one, etc. in English. For example:
Esta computadora es más barata, pero esa es mejor. (esa = esa computadora)
—Estos zapatos son preciosos, me encantan.
—¿Entonces cuáles quieres llevar?
—Voy a llevar estos… y esos también. (estos = estos zapatos, esos = esos zapatos)
Oh, btw, cuáles can replace a noun too! Check out the difference between qué and cuál in Spanish for more information on this topic.
Esta /esa / aquella semana: demonstrative pronouns and time
Demonstrative pronouns can also be used to put something in relation to time.
Sometimes my students ask me whether they should say, when telling a story for example, este or ese día.
Este, esta, estos and estas refer to the present time as well as the nearest past or future:
Este verano es el más caluroso de la historia. (= the current season)
Este fin de semana visité la casa de mis padres. (= last weekend)
On the other hand, ese, esa, esos and esas refer to the future or past:
El 8 de abril voy a viajar a Miami y después a Los Angeles. Esa semana voy a estar muy ocupado.
Ese día no te pude llamar porque estaba en el campo y no tenía wifi.
What about aquel, aquella, aquellos, aquellas? Once again, they refer to the future or past but even farther in time:
Me casé hace 25 años. Aquel fue el día más feliz de mi vida.
But native Spanish speakers would normally choose ese día instead to express the same idea.
Now let’s talk about neutral demonstrative pronouns!
Neutral demonstrative pronouns: esto, eso, aquello
Neutral demonstrative pronouns are always singular and are never used with a noun simply because in Spanish there aren’t neutral nouns.
But when do we use them?
When we don’t know the name of something, or the name is irrelevant, or when we don’t talk about a concrete object in particular.
Since we can’t identify the name properly, it’s not possible to determine whether the thing is masculine or feminine. Let’s see some examples:
Tengo un… appointment. ¿Cómo se dice eso en español? (= the person doesn’t know the word in Spanish)
¡Dios mío! ¡Mira el cielo! ¿Qué es eso? (= the person doesn’t know exactly what that thing is)
Tengo dos regalos para ti. ¿Qué prefieres? ¿Esto o esto? (= the name of the object doesn’t matter)
Esto voy a ponerlo en mi habitación y eso en el sótano. (= again the names don’t matter)
—No entiendo, practico tenis todos los sábados y todavía no puedo jugar bien.
—Eso no es suficiente, tienes que practicar más días. (eso = practicar solo los sábados)
—Creo que ya no te interesa salir conmigo.
—¿Por qué piensas eso? (eso = what the other person said)
—Estábamos caminando en el bosque de noche y, de repente, escuchamos un ruido muy raro…
—Eso no me gusta nada. (eso = the situation the other person is narrating)
Be careful though!
We don’t use these neutral demonstrative pronouns to talk about people. We use the masculine or feminine forms instead:
—Hoy me encontré con Bruno en la calle.
—¿Quién es ese? (= not quién es eso?)
—Un amigo del trabajo.
And that’s all for today!
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