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.
Close**Masculine*FemininethisesteestatheseestosestasFarther Away thateseesathoseesosesasAt a Distance that (over there)aquelaquella*those (over there) aquellosaquellas
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.”
- “I want that.”
You can review demonstrative pronouns in the following table.
Close**Masculine*Femininethis (one)ésteéstathese (ones)éstoséstas*Farther Away** that (one)éseésathose (ones)ésosésasAt a Distance*that (one over there)aquélaquéllathose (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?
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.