Get Portuguese tips and tutoring deals!

Portuguese Demonstrative Pronouns: How to Talk about This, These, That, and Those


Portuguese demonstrative pronouns don’t work in quite the same way as their English counterparts. In English, there’s a binary distinction between “this/these” and “that/those”: a thing is either “here” or “there.” In Portuguese, the distinction is ternary: a thing can either be “here next to me,” “there next to you,” or “over there away from both of us.” Portuguese demonstrative pronouns also inflect for gender and plurality, and they have neutral forms as well, so where in English we have four words, in Portuguese there are fifteen! To make sure you don’t get lost, book a tutor today.


Pens and Pencils

The ternary distinction can be counterintuitive if you’ve grown up speaking English. In this post, we’ll try to illustrate it in the simplest possible terms. For the sake of simplicity, in the examples below we’ll stick to two nouns to illustrate the various pronoun inflections: lápis (pencil) and caneta (pen). The former is masculine and the latter feminine; lápis is identical in its singular and plural forms, whereas the plural of caneta is canetas.


Este/Esta/Estes/Estas

(This/these)

This pronoun is used to refer to something that is close to the speaker, usually in terms of space or time, although it could be a more abstract, conceptual proximity. For instance, if you are handing somebody a pen, you could say pegue esta caneta (“take this pen”), as the pen you are referring to is in your own hand. As with all Portuguese demonstrative pronouns, it inflects for gender and plurality, as shown below:


Take this pencil.

Pegue este lápis.


Take this pen.

Pegue esta caneta.


Take these pencils.

Pegue estes lápis.


Take these pens.

Pegue estas canetas.


Esse/Essa/Esses/Essas

(That/those)

This pronoun is used to refer to an object that is close to the listener, but not to the speaker. It could be used, for example, to ask or instruct someone to pass something to the speaker, as shown in the various examples below.


Pass me that pencil.

Passe esse lápis para mim.


Pass me that pen.

Passe essa caneta para mim.


Pass me those pencils.

Passe esses lápis para mim.


Pass me those pens.

Passe essas canetas para mim.


Aquele/Aquela/Aqueles/Aquelas

(That/those)

This pronoun is used to refer to an object that is not close to either the speaker or the listener. For instance, if you’re expressing an opinion about something, unless it’s in the room and you’re pointing to it, you’ll use this pronoun, as in the examples below.


I don’t like that pencil.

Não gosto daquele lápis.


I don’t like that pen.

Não gosto daquela caneta.


I don’t like those pencils.

Não gosto daqueles lápis.


I don’t like those pens.

Não gosto daquelas canetas.

Note that, for these examples, if you’re looking at the pen(s) or pencil(s), you’d use one of the other pronouns—the example assumes that the speaker is not. Also, the “d” at the beginning of each word is a contraction of the word de (of)—in Portuguese, you don’t just “like” something, you like “of” it.


Isto/Isso/Aquilo

These are the perfect, uninflected forms of este, esse, and aquele, respectively. They are used when not referring to a specific object. Examples of uses are shown below.


What’s this?

O que é isto?


What’s that?

O que é isso?


What’s that thing over there?

O que é aquilo?


There’s More to Learn!

The examples used in this post are deliberately simple to illustrate the conceptual distinction in the plainest way possible. However, choosing which Portuguese demonstrative pronoun to use is not always clear-cut. Knowing which one to go with can be as much a question of practice and instinct as of theoretical knowledge. Want to know more? Learn with our tutors to become confident with this and other areas of Portuguese grammar.

Get Portuguese tips and tutoring deals!