Demonstratives and proximity adverbs in Spanish

¡Hola a todos!

Today, I’m writing about a grammar topic: demonstrative articles and some adverbs related to them.

I know grammar might be very boring for some students, but it’s a very important part when learning a language! So, I’ll try it to be short and easy-going. ¿Preparados? 🙂

 

Demonstrative articles in Spanish.

First of all, we must explain what a demonstrative article is. They are words that go with a noun, and they must agree with it. That is, if the noun is masculine and singular, the article must be masculine and singular as well.

  1. What are the demonstrative articles in Spanish?

 

  1. When should I use “este”, “ese” or “aquel”?

In Spanish, these articles are equivalent to this and that in English; but there’s a difference: English has two demonstratives, Spanish has three. This is because Spanish makes a deeper difference than English, and splits that in two. Let’s see why:

  • Este, esta -> this

Este coche es rojo. (This car is red)

  • Ese, esa -> that

Ese coche es verde. (That car is green; the car is a bit far, middle distance)

  • Aquel, aquella -> that

Aquel coche es negro. (That car is black; the car is far away)

As you can see, the difference among “ese” and “aquel” is the distance between the subject and the object. If it’s a middle distance, we use “ese”; if it’s very far, we use “aquel”.

  1. Can demonstrative articles in Spanish measure time?

Yes, they can… somehow. We often use them with words related to time: day, week, morning… For example:

  • Este fin de semana voy a la playa.
  • Ese día lo pasé muy bien.
  • Aquella semana estudié mucho.

If we use “este”, we are talking about a time that hasn’t occurred yet, that is, future. In the example, this (next) weekend I’m going to the beach.

On the opposite, if we use “ese” or “aquel”, we talk about a past experience, as shown in the previous examples: That (past) day; that (past) week.

  1. Can demonstrative articles in Spanish go after the noun?

Yes, but you must be careful. When we use the structure noun + demonstrative, we might want to be colloquial or pejorative.

For example, instead of saying “ese día lo pasé muy bien” as we said before, we could say “el día ese lo pasé muy bien”. It is an informal way, not disrespectful at all. But it could also be pejorative if we say “el día ese fue un asco”.

How to know if it’s informal or pejorative? Basically, about intonation and context. If  you’re talking about something good, then it would be informal; if you’re angry or disappointed, then it will turn pejorative.

 

Adverbs: aquí, ahí, allí, acá, allá

So these are some adverbs I like to teach related to the demonstrative articles, because they are also about distance in the same way.

“Aquí” and “acá” means the same, here. The difference is about use: personally, I always use “aquí”, and “acá” is more used in Latin-American countries (I’m Spanish, so if some Latin-American is reading me and I’m wrong, please let me know!).

About how to say there, we’re in the same situation than we were with that. “Ahí” is a middle-distance adverb, and “allí” is a long-distance adverb. And “allá” is used as well in Latin-America.

Note that the spelling is very important for “ahí”; if you change the “h” position, it will mean something different, as you can see in this orthography post.

Hope I’ve been clear with this. If you have any question, don’t doubt about asking!

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¡Hasta la próxima! 😊