On Duolingo, I translated "I throw this" as "Yo tiro este" but it was wrong; the correct translation was "Yo tiro esto".

But doesn't whether it's "este" or "esto" depend on the gender of the noun being referred to? If so, why is masculine ("esto") inferred or assumed, when the noun is unspecified?


3 Answers 3


Esto is the neuter form of este, which is masculine.

In Spanish, neuter pronouns are used to refer to something that has just been mentioned or that is about to be said, and also to ask or talk about statements, ideas, and vague or unnamed things.

  • Decir eso es tanto como no decir nada.
  • Nunca olvides esto: tu familia siempre te apoyará.
  • ¿Qué es aquello que se ve detrás de las montañas?

In your question (tiro esto), it replaces esta cosa ("this thing").


There are:

  • este (m.), esta (f.), they play as adjectives.
  • éste (m.), ésta (f.), esto (n.), they play as sustantives.

Examples (well formed):

  • —Yo como esta fruta. —¿Cuál fruta? —Ésta.
  • —Yo bebo este licor. —¿Cuál licor? —Éste.
  • —Me golpearon con una cosa. —¿Con qué? —Con esto.

If you say "Yo tiro esta", the phrase is incomplete, if you say "Yo tiro ésta" you are making reference to some feminine substantive which is implicit.

And you can use the neutral one, when you are talking about something without naming it. If you say "una cosa" (a thing), "algo" (something), etc. or you never name it, you can use it, but you have to give some indications (like pointing the object).

—Hola, ¿qué te pasó? —Me golpeé la cabeza. —¿Con qué? —Con esto.

To understand it better, you could use syntactic analysis:

S:*Sujeto* (subject)
P: *Predicado* (predicate)
N: *Núcleo* (noun?)
OD: *Objeto directo* (direct object)
MD: *Modificador directo* (direct modifier)

/¯S¯\ /¯¯¯¯¯¯P¯¯¯¯¯¯\
  Yo  como esta fruta.    
  N    V    MD    N

The previous phrase has no sens without "fruta", "esta" needs to modify something:

/¯S¯\ /¯¯¯¯¯¯P¯¯¯¯¯¯\
  Yo  como esta   ….    
  N    V    MD    N

But, you can use ésta:

/¯S¯\ /¯¯¯P¯¯¯\
  Yo  como ésta.    
  N    V     N

This "tilde" (I mean whit this function) is called "tilde diacrítica". As @guifa comment, it is falling into disuse in a few words ("sólo", "éste", "ésta", "aquélla", etc.). The online dictionary of the Real Academia Española still recommends the use of it, but the New Orthography recommends avoid it. Still, I think it is a good way to showing the difference here, and to make clear that it not a typo (you don't forget to write the noun).

Anyway, "yo tiro este" is ok if you follow the new recommendation and you are in a context in which you know if the noun is feminine or masculine. I do not use Duolingo anymore, because they do not take note of their own mistakes.

  • 2
    Demonstrative pronouns do not have accents on them anymore. Dec 3, 2014 at 5:11
  • 2
    They do, the RAE recommend the use "when there is risk of amphibology", and it is almost always.
    – ESL
    Dec 3, 2014 at 5:33
  • On other hand, it is a good practice to teach it. Beacause exceptions should be taught later (when the general rule was learned), and because there is a difference in intonation.
    – ESL
    Dec 3, 2014 at 5:36
  • See point 5: rae.es/sites/default/files/… In teaching, you can point out that accents may be seen over demonstratives, but just like with fué and fue, they can be safely ignored by modern students. Dec 3, 2014 at 5:42
  • Well that's new (then the online DRAE it's not updated), but even when now it change, it not like you said ("do not have accents on them anymore"). It said that you could use it if you want to, but the recommendation now is not use them. So, again, it is still ok, and I see it useful at least when teaching (in this case is very clear).
    – ESL
    Dec 3, 2014 at 5:54

As a native Spanish speaker, I can say we use esto and este interchangeably sometimes, however, if I were to translate "I throw this" I would say "Tiro esto", and instead I would say "Tiro este" if the original sentence was "I throw this one". As you can see, the main difference is how specific is the subject you're talking about, and that, depends on context alone, which duolingo sometimes lack, since it gives you sentences to translate back and forth devoid of context.

I also found this: http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/114274/este-vs-esto

  • It should be noted that some of them the information on that page is oudated. You don't accent demonstrative pronouns anymore. Nov 29, 2014 at 14:42
  • 2
    -1, absolutamente incorrecto. "Tiro esto" y "tiro este" no son intercambiables en ninguna circunstancia.
    – Rodrigo
    Jun 17, 2016 at 1:41

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