Este, Ese, or Aquel? Untangle Demonstrative Adjectives in Spanish

Grover Laughton9 min
Creado: Feb 19, 2024Última actualización: Mar 29, 2024
Demonstrative Adjectives in Spanish

Did you know Spanish makes more distinctions than English regarding demonstrative adjectives? The language adds layers of precision, and speakers can convey distance and perspective with just a single word. Understanding when and how to use these specific demonstrative adjectives in Spanish will make your conversations more nuanced and fluent. With our guide, you will learn all the essentials and gain the ability to use them correctly. We will provide plenty of tips and examples to aid your understanding.

Discover the Basics: What Are Demonstrative Adjectives in Spanish?

Demonstrative adjectives, or adjetivos demostrativos, play a crucial role in communication and allow speakers to specify objects in relation to distance from the speaker and listener. Unlike English, which primarily uses ‘this/these’ for close objects and ‘that/those’ for distant objects, Spanish offers three degrees of proximity: este [’este] (this, close to the speaker), ese [’ese] (that, closer to the listener or neither close nor far), and aquel [aˈkel] (that over there, far from both). 

Each of these adjectives changes form to agree with the gender and number of the nouns they modify. So practice, repetition, and understanding the rules are vital in mastering these forms.

The Role of Demonstrative Adjectives in Spanish

In Spanish, demonstrative adjectives indicate objects’ proximity to the speaker and listener. They help to identify and specify items within a conversation, which adds clarity and precision. Here’s how they function:

  • Indicating proximity. Demonstrative adjectives signal how near or far an object is. Este libro [’este ˈliβɾo] (this book) points to a book close to the speaker. Esa casa [ˈesa ˈkasa] (that house) refers to a house nearer to the listener, while aquellos niños [aˈkeʎos ˈniɲos] (those children) talks about children far from both the speaker and listener.
  • Identifying specific items. Beyond proximity, these adjectives clarify exactly which items someone is talking about. In a room of books, saying este libro identifies a specific book near the speaker among many.

Such agility in conveying relative distance and specificity makes these adjectives valuable. Just like with other grammar elements, such as the distinction between preterite and imperfect, mastering these forms demands practice and understanding. 

Demonstrative Adjective Placement

In Spanish, the placement of demonstrative adjectives is crucial for clear communication. These come directly before the nouns they describe, matching gender and number.

Este libro es interesante. [ˈeste ˈliβɾo es inteɾeˈsante] (This book is interesting).

Aquellos niños juegan en el parque. [aˈkeʎos ˈniɲos ˈxweɣan en el ˈpaɾke] (Those kids are playing in the park).

Estas flores son para ti. [ˈestas ˈfloɾes son ˈpaɾa ti] (These flowers are for you).

The Three Types of Spanish Demonstrative Adjectives

As you already know, Spanish employs three demonstrative adjectives: este, ese, and aquel. Their use differs based on the distance between objects and speakers or listeners. Below, we will provide comprehensive information about each type, with examples and conjugation tables to assist your learning process.

Este: Things Close to the Speaker and Listener

The demonstrative adjective este indicates objects or people close to the speaker, often within arm’s reach or in the immediate vicinity. This category is the equivalent of ‘this’ or ‘these’ in English and changes form to agree with the noun it modifies in gender and number. Here is a conjugation table for este in various contexts:

This (Singular)Este [ˈeste]Esta [ˈesta]Esto [ˈesto]
These (Plural)Estos [ˈestos]Estas [ˈestas] 

Este coche es mío. [’este ˈkoche es ˈmio] (This car is mine).

Estos zapatos son cómodos. [’estos za’patos son ‘komodos] (These shoes are comfortable).

Esta canción me hace feliz. [’esta kan’sjon me ase ‘felis] (This song makes me happy).

Note that the neutral form of the demonstrative pronoun in Spanish esto is often used to refer to situations or abstract ideas rather than concrete objects. For instance, consider the sentence Esto es importante. [ˈesto es imporˈtante] (This is important). Here, esto is used to refer to the concept of importance, which is not a tangible object 

Ese: Things a Bit Further from the Speaker

The demonstrative adjective ese refers to objects or people not as close to the speaker as este, typically within the listener’s vicinity or at a moderate distance. It corresponds to ‘that’ or ‘those’ in English, and also agrees with the noun it modifies. Here’s a conjugation table:

That (Singular)Ese [ˈese]Esa [ˈesa]Eso [ˈeso]
Those (Plural)Esos [ˈesos]Esas [ˈesas] 

Ese libro es interesante. [ˈese ˈliβɾo es inteɾeˈsante] (That book is interesting).

Esas flores son hermosas. [ˈesas ˈfloɾes son eɾˈmosas] (Those flowers are beautiful).

Eso no me parece justo. [ˈeso no me paˈɾese ˈxusto] (That doesn’t seem fair to me).

Aquel: Things Far from Both the Speaker and Listener

The adjective aquel refers to objects, people, or situations far from the speaker and listener. It’s used to point out distant items in space or time, similar to ‘that over there’ in English. Here’s a table for aquel:

That Over There (Singular)Aquel [aˈkel]Aquella [aˈkeʎa]Aquello [aˈkeʎo]
Those Over There (Plural)Aquellos [aˈkeʎos]Aquellas [aˈkeʎas] 

Aquel árbol es gigantesco. [aˈkel ˈarβol es xiɣanˈtesko] (That tree over there is gigantic).

Aquellas montañas son hermosas. [aˈkeʎas mon’tanyas son er’mosas] (Those mountains over there are beautiful).

Recordé aquellos días con melancolía. [’rekorde a’keʎos ‘diaz kon melaŋ’kolia] (I remembered those days with melancholy).

Demonstrative Adjectives vs Demonstrative Pronouns: What’s the Difference?

Understanding the difference between demonstrative adjectives and pronouns in Spanish is another important aspect of mastering the language. Both elements point out specific objects, people, or ideas but serve different functions in a sentence. The key difference lies in their application: adjectives describe nouns, while pronouns replace them. This distinction is crucial for clear and accurate communication in Spanish.

Demonstrative adjectives answer the question of ‘which’ noun. They precede and agree with the noun they modify in gender and number, providing details about the proximity of the noun to the speaker and listener. For instance, Ese coche [’ese ‘ko.tʃe] (That car) uses ese as an adjective to describe coche.

Conversely, demonstrative pronouns in Spanish stand alone and take the place of the noun entirely. They must still agree in gender and number with the noun they replace but do not accompany it in the sentence. For example, Ése es rápido [ˈese es ˈrapido] (That one is fast) uses ése as a pronoun to replace the noun mentioned earlier.

Ese coche es rápido [’ese ‘ko.tʃe es ˈrapido] (That car is fast).Ése es rápido [ˈese es ˈrapido] (That one is fast).
Estos libros son interesantes [’estos ‘liβɾos son inte’resantes] (These books are interesting).Éstos son interesantes [ˈestos son inte’resantes] (These ones are interesting).
Aquel hombre es mi padre [a’kel ‘om.bre es mi ˈpað̞.ɾe] (That man over there is my father). Aquél es mi padre [aˈkel es mi ˈpadre] (That one over there is my father). 

A clear understanding of these differences will thereby help enhance your grammatical accuracy and communication efficiency in Spanish. So, mind the changes and practice to get accustomed!

Common Mistakes in Using Spanish Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns

Navigating Spanish demonstrative adjectives and pronouns can be tricky, which may lead to common errors among learners. Below, we will explain some mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Confusing adjectives with pronouns. A frequent mistake is mixing up adjectives, which describe nouns, with pronouns, which replace nouns. Remember, adjectives precede the noun (e.g., esta casa [’esta ‘kasa]), while pronouns stand alone (e.g., ésta es grande [e’sta es ‘ɣɾande]).
  • Mismatching gender and number. Each demonstrative must agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to. Errors occur when learners apply a masculine adjective to a feminine noun or vice versa (e.g., using ese for casa, which should be esa casa).
  • Overlooking neuter pronouns. The neuter pronouns estoeso, and aquello are often neglected. They are essential for referring to abstract ideas or unspecified objects, not just for replacing nouns with a clear gender. An example is ¿Qué es esto? [¿ke es ˈesto?] (What is this?).
  • Misjudging spatial distinctions. Misusing esteese, and aquel due to distance nuances can confuse listeners about what or who the speaker refers to. Make sure you understand the slight distance distinctions: este for near objects/people, ese for medium-distance ones, and aquel for farthest subjects.
  • Ignoring contextual usage. The choice between ese and aquel often depends on more than physical distance; it can also reflect emotional or temporal distance. Misusing them can confuse the intended emphasis or relationship.
  • Forgetting accent marks in pronouns. When written, demonstrative pronouns should carry accent marks to distinguish them from adjectives, a rule often overlooked in informal contexts but important in formal writing.

You can avoid these common mistakes with a clear understanding and ample practice. Keep working with demonstratives daily, as immersion is key to perfect mastery!


Tips to Navigate Spanish Demonstrative Adjectives

Mastering demonstrative adjectives requires practice, patience, and understanding. These tips aim to streamline your learning process and give you a strong start:

  • Contextual learning. Engage with authentic Spanish materials like articles, videos, or podcasts. Note how speakers use demonstrative adjectives within various contexts – this exposure reinforces their proper use related to distance and familiarity.
  • Create scenarios. Write or speak about scenarios that require choosing between objects at different distances. For example, describe a room and the location of items in it relative to where you’re standing.
  • Listening practice. Pay special attention to dialogue in Spanish movies or series, focusing on how characters select demonstrative adjectives based on their physical or emotional proximity to the objects they reference.
  • Feedback loop. Regularly get feedback from native speakers or teachers on using demonstrative adjectives. Corrections and suggestions can greatly speed up your learning process.

Applying these tips, beyond basic memorization, involves actively engaging with the language in diverse settings. It guarantees a deeper understanding and more fluent use of Spanish demonstrative adjectives in your conversations.

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With this guide, you now know how to use demonstrative adjectives in Spanish. Though the path may appear challenging, regular training paired with accurate application of rules can simplify it. Implement our tips, engage in interactive learning, and regularly expose yourself to Spanish materials. Gradually, these adjectives will start making sense as your understanding deepens. Remember not to hurry – patience breeds competence!


How does mastery of demonstratives enhance oral proficiency in Spanish?

Understanding this language aspect fosters precise, nuanced communication. It equips speakers with the skill to maneuver through tricky social environments, share stories with clear spatial and temporal contexts, and partake in high-level talks on abstract concepts.

How do regional variations in Spanish affect the use of demonstrative adjectives?

Dialects can shape pronunciation and preference for specific demonstrative forms in different regions. For instance, in some Latin American countries, ese and aquel might be used interchangeably in everyday speech. This is less common in Spain as distinctions receive stricter observation. Regional nuances awareness contributes to the authenticity of your conversational Spanish.

How do Spanish demonstratives interact with non-verbal communication cues in conversation?

In Spanish, demonstratives often accompany gestures that indicate the location of the referred object or person, enhancing the verbal message. The speaker might point, gaze, or orient their body toward the object.

Where can I practice Spanish demonstrative adjectives online?

For those looking to enhance their understanding of this aspect, websites like BBC Languages offer comprehensive definitions, examples, and quizzes. The University of Texas website provides a range of task-based exercises. These are spread across different learning elements. You can find grammar, vocabulary resources, and podcasts for practice purposes. The Spanish language learning app by Promova also offers interactive and engaging lesson plans focusing on grammar.


PromovaMar 7th, 2024
"Aquel" and "aquella" are singular demonstrative adjectives used to indicate something far from both the speaker and the listener. They are more distant than "ese" and "esa." "Aquel" is used before masculine singular nouns, while "aquella" is used before feminine singular nouns.
BenjaminMar 7th, 2024
Cool! How do "aquel" and "aquella" differ from "ese" and "esa"?