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In this lesson, we will discuss demonstratives of two types: demonstrative adjectives and demonstrative pronouns. The first step in clearly understanding these two topics is to review the differences between “adjectives” and “pronouns.”
describes a noun
takes the place of a noun
In the following sentences, the words in bold all function as adjectives, since they all describe the noun “book.”
Give me the red book.
Give me the big book.
Give me that book.
Give me this book.
Notice that adjectives answer the question “Which?” in relation to the nouns that they modify. (Which book? The red book. The big book. That book. This book.)
In the following sentences, the words in bold all function as pronouns, since they all take the place of a noun.
Maria is next; give her the ball.
Juan is here; say hello to him.
That pencil is yours; this is mine.
This book is mine; that is yours.
Notice that pronouns replace a noun. (“her” replaces “Maria” – “him” replaces “Juan” – “this” replaces “pencil” – “that” replaces “book”)
As you have just seen, the words “this” and “that” can function as both adjectives and pronouns.
This book is mine. (adjective)
This (one) is mine. (pronoun)
That book is yours.(adjective)
That (one) is yours. (pronoun)
The same is true in Spanish.
Juan reads this book. (adjective)
Juan lee este libro.
Juan reads this. (pronoun)
Juan lee este.
That statue is Greek.
Esa estatua es griega.
That (one) is American.
Esa es americana.
Spanish has three words where English only has two. In English, we say “this” or “that” depending upon whether the object is close to us or not. In Spanish, we also say “this” and “that,” but there is another, separate word used to mean “that one over there.” This form is used when the object is more than just a short distance away, for example, on the other side of the room. Here are the three forms for “this” “that” and “that one over there.”
that one over there
Remember that in Spanish, adjectives have four forms: masculine singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, feminine plural. For example the adjective “short” has four forms in Spanish: bajo, bajos, baja, bajas.
el chico bajo
los chicos bajos
la chica baja
las chicas bajas
The demonstrative adjectives also have four forms:
este libro (this book)
estos libros (these books)
esta pluma (this pen)
estas plumas (these pens)
ese libro (that book)
esos libros (those books)
esa pluma (that pen)
esas plumas (those pens)
aquel libro (that book over there)
aquellos libros (those books over there)
aquella pluma (that pen over there)
aquellas plumas (those pens over there)
Here are the corresponding demonstrative pronouns:
este (this one – masculine)
estos (these ones – masculine)
esta (this one – feminine)
estas (these ones – feminine)
ese (that one – masculine)
esos (those ones – masculine)
esa (that one – feminine)
esas (those ones – feminine)
aquel (that one over there – masc.)
aquellos (those ones over there – masc.)
aquella (that one over there – fem.)
aquellas (those ones over there – fem.)
Each demonstrative pronoun also has a neuter form. They do not change for number or gender, and they are used to refer to abstract ideas, or to an unknown object.
esto (this matter, this thing)
eso (that matter, that thing)
aquello (that matter/thing over there)
Note: The rule used to be that the demonstrative pronouns always carried a written accent, while the demonstrative adjectives did not. But in 1959 the Real Academia Española, the institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language, ruled in its revised spelling rules Nuevas normas that the written accent is only required to remove certain ambiguities, the type of which almost never appear in written Spanish. Thus, in practice, the written accent is not required. However, it should also be noted that not everyone has jumped on the RAE bandwagon, — including Madrid’s daily newspaper El País as well as the majority of Spanish grammars that you are likely to encounter.