Esta, esto, este… esa, eso, and ese… let’s learn all the words for “this” and “that”. We’ll also talk about why some pronouns don’t have a grammatical gender, even though all nouns in Spanish are either masculine or feminine.
“This thing”, “that day”… let’s do a lot more things with Spanish nouns.
Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.
Today we’re going to explore some really interesting things about the gender of Spanish nouns. Do all nouns have a gender? And what about when the ideas that you’re talking about are vague and abstract? Do those ideas have a gender as well?
But let’s start by learning some fun, easy vocabulary, and we’ll begin with the handiest noun in the whole Spanish language: the word cosa, which means “thing”. You can use this noun to represent pretty much anything you want it to, just like the word “thing” in English.
But note that this is a feminine noun, so it takes feminine articles and pronouns. And that’s true no matter what the thing is that you’re talking about. So any time you say “the thing” in Spanish, you use la cosa, because the thing that you’re talking about is temporarily treated as feminine.
You can also say las cosas, which means “the things”. Make sure to pronounce the final S as a hard S, “sss”. The “z” sound that we use at the end of wordzzz in English… doesn’t exist in Spanish.
So how would you say “a thing”? …una cosa.
How would you say:
The things are at her house.
Las cosas están en su casa.
Let’s also learn a masculine noun: día, which means “day”. This is spelled D-I-A, with an accent mark over the letter I.
Now the fact that this is masculine might be confusing since the word itself, día, ends with the letter A. But it doesn’t matter, it’s still masculine. This is actually fairly often the case. Yes, a lot of feminine nouns end with “A” and a lot of masculine nouns end with “O”, but the most commonly used masculine noun in Spanish, the word día, ends with A. One thing that helps a lot of our students is to learn this noun in a memory palace that depicts the day on the right side and the thing on the left side; this can help you remember that día is used with pronouns and articles that are masculine, also stored on the right side in our memory palaces, and “thing” is used with feminine pronouns and articles, stored on the left side. For a peek at this noun memory palace we use with our students, go to LCSPodcast.com/34.
Let’s practice día and cosa.
It is a good day.
Es un buen día.
It’s a thing that she wants.
Es una cosa que ella wants.
Es una cosa que ella quiere.
The days were long and the things were fine.
Los días eran long y las cosas estaban bien.
Los días eran largos y las cosas estaban bien.
These new nouns are pretty easy to use as you customize your own sentences in Spanish. Using any of our sentence templates, you can simply do the food test — if you can replace a word or phrase with “food”, or with eso, you can also replace it with one of these words!
Speaking of eso, we need to talk about this word a little bit. The fact is, it’s not the only way to say “that” in Spanish. In fact, there are two more ways to say “that”, depending on whether the noun you’re talking about is masculine or feminine.
So we’ve been learning that every noun in Spanish is either masculine or feminine. But the word eso actually isn’t! That’s because eso is an abstract word, representing the whole idea of something without being too specific as to a specific grammatical noun that it represents.
This is a really weird thing that happens in Spanish. Again, there are no nouns in Spanish that are “neuter”. All nouns do have a gender. But there ARE a couple of pronouns that don’t have a gender — and eso is a great example.
Eso doesn’t have a gender because you wouldn’t use it to refer to something specific like el día or la cosa. Instead, you’d use it to refer to something more general. For example, if I said, “Would you hang out on this day at my house?” you might answer, “That would be nice!” But when you say “that”, what does “that” refer to? Does it refer to this day, which would be masculine? Or to my house, which would be feminine? No, it just refers to the general idea: “That” would be nice.
¡Eso sería bueno!
Now, be careful, because there’s a trap here — sometimes Spanish students get an idea that abstract ideas are all going to be neuter and non-gendered. Actually, even ideas are gendered when the nouns themselves are named in the sentence. Even the word “idea” has a gender (feminine), as does the word “plan” (which is masculine). So for example, in this imaginary conversation, if I referred to everything I’m talking about specifically as an “idea”, I’d refer to it as feminine. Or if I referred to it as a “plan”, I’d use a masculine noun and pronouns.
In a nutshell, eso is used when no noun is named. If you want to be specific, however, you’ll use a gendered pronoun. For example, I mentioned a specific day, and you were to say “that DAY would be nice”, you couldn’t use the word eso. Instead, you’d use the word ese, which is masculine.
Or if I said “do you like that house?” To say “that house”, I would use the word esa, which is feminine.
So in summary, “that”, neuter, is eso. “That” feminine is esa, and “that” masculine ends with an E, so it’s ese.
To make this a bit easier, let’s use a memory palace that has helped thousands of our students keep these words straight. Imagine that you’re at a lake, and you’re staring into the water, wondering what might be swimming in those depths. But then off in the distance you see three playing cards floating on the water. All three of them are Aces. The one in the middle is eso, the one we learned way back in Episode 2. But the one to its left is esa, ending with an A like so many feminine nouns and pronouns. And the one to the right is ese. Maybe it ends with an E because it’s on the East side of the lake.
Next, instead of looking out at the playing cards on the lake, look down at your feet. There’s a little nest of colorful easter eggs here, close to you on the shore. You reach down, and there are three eggs total, so you can’t pick them all up, but you hold a pink one in your left hand and a blue one in your right hand. These easter eggs have names. The one on the left is called an “esta egg”, and the one on the right is the “este egg”. The one in the middle, still sitting on the ground, is esto.
This is a total of six words: esa, eso, ese, esta, esto, and este. And it’s really easy to confuse these words if you don’t use this memory palace scene. The three words that are close up, the words that sound kind of like “easter”, all mean “this”. That’s different from the “that” on the lake. Very generally speaking, we use words that mean “this” for items that are close to us, for example eggs that you’re holding in your hands right in front of you, but we use words like ‘that” for items that are far away, like some aces floating on a lake in the distance. So remember that the words close up are the Easter eggs, meaning “this”, representing the words esta, esto, and este. And the aces are far away, representing the words esa, eso, and ese. If you want to see our illustration of this memory palace, you can find it at LCSPodcast.com/34.
Now let’s do a quick quiz to make sure that you can remember these!
How would you say “that”, masculine?
How would you say “this”, neuter?
What’s the word for “this” that’s feminine?
And what’s the word for “that” that’s feminine?
I strongly recommend drawing this scene from memory to make sure that you can keep all six of these words straight. For the nerds, these six pronouns are called demonstrative pronouns, because you use them to demonstrate “this” and “that”, almost as if you’re pointing at an item.
And once again, the words in the middle, esto and eso, don’t refer to a specific noun. You use them all by themselves to refer to the general idea of something. Let’s say you’re reading an article and it mentions an event or party that might be interesting to go to. You might comment out loud, “Hey, this sounds like fun!” In that situation, you’ll probably use the word esto. But if you want to be specific about a noun, such as “event” (which is masculine) or “party” (which is feminine), you’ll use either este or esta.
Let’s look at a case where you’d use esta instead. Let’s say that you want to say “this”, but you’re clearly referring to a house. In English, you might say “this one is my house”. In Spanish, instead of “this one”, you leave off the word “one” and simply say esta.
¡Esta es mi casa!
But what’s really fun is that you can also use these gendered words right before a noun! Of course, the gender has to match the noun. For example, “that day” is ese día. “This thing” is esta cosa.
Let’s do a quick quiz to practice this. How would you say “that house”?
What about “this day”?
How about “that thing”?
Be careful about being tempted to put the words eso and esto before a noun, the way we’re doing it with these other words. Eso and esto can only ever be used by themselves, not referring to a specific noun.
All right, let’s try practicing these with some actual sentence contexts.
This day is a good day.
Este día es un buen día.
That house isn’t our house.
Esa casa no es nuestra casa.
This thing was here on that day.
Esta cosa estaba aquí ese día.
By the way, a fun thing that you can do with the word día is that you can just throw it on to the end or beginning of a sentence, and it will behave like an adverb. We’ll learn more about adverbs soon, but let’s just try it out here as an experiment. Check out this sentence:
He was at the house. Estuvo en la casa.
We can throw “this day” or “that day” on to the end to talk about WHEN he was at the house. We can say:
Estuvo en la casa ese día.
Estuvo en la casa este día.
Or we can even put ese día at the beginning:
Ese día estuvo en la casa.
But for now, the most important thing to remember is how to use all six words in the scene. Remember that the feminine and masculine ones can be used to replace or accompany a feminine or masculine noun, and that the neuter ones, esto and eso, can only be used if there’s no specific noun.
Let’s practice all of this with today’s final quiz.
That one(f) was here because of him.
Esa estuvo aquí por él.
It would be good to be at that place.
Sería bueno estar en ese lugar.
He wouldn’t be here, but it’s ok.
No estaría aquí, pero está bien.
This boy has been good, but that one hasn’t been.
Este chico has sido bueno, pero ese no lo has sido.
Este chico ha sido bueno, pero ese no lo ha sido.
This one (m) won’t be at the house.
Este no estará en la casa.
You would be at the house?
¿Tú estarías en la casa?
I know he is a good friend, but this one(m) isn’t.
I know que es un buen amigo, pero este no lo es.
Sé que es un buen amigo, pero este no lo es.
I have been with my friend (f) for several days.
I have estado con mi amiga por several días.
He estado con mi amiga por varios días.
This thing is being a problem.
Esta cosa está siendo a problem.
Esta cosa está siendo un problema.
I have the things you had the day you were here.
I have las cosas que you had el día que estabas aquí.
Tengo las cosas que tuviste el día que estabas aquí.
This house is better than that one.
Esta casa es better que esa.
Esta casa es mejor que esa.
This cat(m) is bigger than that one(m).
Este cat es bigger que ese.
Este gato es más grande que ese.
This day is a good day, but that one wasn’t.
Este día es un buen día, pero ese no lo era.
The things in that house have been there for a long time.
Las cosas en esa casa have estado there por a long time.
Las cosas en esa casa han estado ahí por mucho tiempo.
That one(f) would be perfect.
Esa sería perfect.
Esa sería perfecta.
This isn’t OK, because we would be in trouble.
Esto no está bien, porque estaríamos en trouble.
Esto no está bien, porque estaríamos en problemas.
I said this that day.
Yo said esto ese día.
Yo dije esto ese día.
I was with that girl and the girl had this thing.
Estuve con esa chica y la chica had esta cosa.
Estuve con esa chica y la chica tenía esta cosa.
This one (f) will be more beautiful than that one (f).
Esta será more beautiful que esa.
Esta será más bonita que esa.
I will be the one who goes to that place.
Seré el que goes a ese lugar.
Seré el que vaya a ese lugar.
For more practice with all of this, and to see today’s memory palace illustrations, go to LCSPodcast.com/34.
This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Ximena Lama-Rondón. Our music was provided by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.