Demonstrative adjectives are aptly named because they demonstrate the distance between the noun being modified and the speaker of the sentence. To indicate that the noun being modified is “here,” English uses the words “this” (singular) and “these” (plural). To indicate that something is “there,” the demonstrative adjectives are “that” (singular) and “those” (plural). So, in English, there are only two possible distances (“here” and “there”) and there are two different forms for singular nouns (this, that) and plural nouns (these, those).
Another concept of distance is the amount of time that has passed. For example:
- Esta camiseta que llevo hoy es muy cómoda.
- This T-shirt that I am wearing today is very comfortable.
- Esa camisa que llevaba ayer era de lana.
- That shirt that I was wearing yesterday was wool.
Because Spanish indicates the gender as well as the number of the noun being modified by an adjective, demonstrative adjectives have masculine and feminine forms. The Spanish word for “this” has a feminine form (esta) and a masculine form (este). There are also feminine and masculine forms of the equivalent of “these” (estos and estas). The words for “that” (ese and esa) and “those” (esos and esas) also indicate gender and number and are just like the words for “this” except that they lack the letter t. Chant the following words like a mantra to remember:
- The Spanish words for “this” and “these” both have t's. “That” and “those” don't.
Examine the sample sentences below, then reread the phrase above. Understanding it will help you differentiate between the demonstrative adjectives later.
Unlike the English language, which—as discussed earlier—only has two demonstrative distances, the Spanish language differentiates between three distances: “here,” “there,” and “far away.” If you want to indicate that a noun is “way over there,” use the singular demonstrative adjectives aquel (masculine) or aquella (feminine) or the plural demonstrative adjectives aquellos (masculine) or aquellas (feminine). Because English does not have three demonstrative distances, there is no English equivalent to these words; for this book's purposes, these words are translated as “that (noun) way over there” or “those (nouns) way over there.” The following sentences illustrate this concept.
To indicate the three different distances in the Spanish language, you must learn three important words. If you see one of these in a sentence, it is a good clue as to which demonstrative adjective is appropriate to use in the sentence. Table demonstrates which type of demonstrative adjective should be used with each distance word.
Table organizes all the demonstrative adjectives by gender and number. Consistently, the singular feminine forms and plural masculine and plural feminine forms of all the demonstrative adjectives have “normal” endings (‐a, ‐os, and ‐as). The singular masculine forms are the ones that break the pattern with este, ese, and aquel.
This is important to know because demonstrative pronouns have a form that looks like what you would expect for the singular masculine form of demonstrative adjectives. Also notice that demonstrative adjectives do not have any accent marks. If you see similar words with accents, they are demonstrative pronouns, which replace nouns rather than modify them.