Do the words lo, la, los, las (objective pronouns) and este, esta, estos, estas, ese, esa, esos, esas (demonstratives) only have to agree with gender when the word is actually used? What if the pronouns/demonstratives only refer to objects whose words are never spoken? I'll give some examples.

On Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish, I saw the following example sentence:

No quiero decírtela. I do not want to tell it to you

In this sentence, we don't know to what word 'la' refers since it is never mentioned, so it would make sense (to me) that 'lo' is used instead (since, for example, 'el' is used instead of 'la' when gender is ambiguous or mixed).

Also, when using demonstratives to point to objects, do you have to make sure the demonstrative agrees with that object, even if you never mention the object by name? If you do have to make the demonstrative agree with the gender, what about ambiguous cases when there are multiple words that refer to the object but have a different gender?

For example, if I point at an apple and say "Look at that" in Spanish, but never say the word "manzana" (or any other words that could refer to the apple, such as "objetivo," which is masculine), what demonstrative do I use?

Part of the reason this is a problem with me, is that making gender agree requires mental effort, especially since I associate gender with words, not actual objects.

  • 1
    There seems to be no tag for "demonstratives" or "demostrativos". I cannot create the tag due to insufficient reputation. Can someone else do it? Feb 16, 2018 at 11:29
  • 2
    I added the tag pronombres-demostrativos, we can start using it for these kind of questions, together with the generic pronombres. Thanks hddh for suggesting it and, of course, welcome to Spanish Language!
    – fedorqui
    Feb 16, 2018 at 11:40

1 Answer 1


Do pronouns only have to agree with their object's gender when the word is actually used?

Well... yes and no.

In the first example you gave, it'd be perfectly fine for you to say to me:

—No quiero decírtelo.

But you can say that because I don't (yet) know what is it you don't want to tell me. You can say "No quiero decírtelo" only as long as "la verdad" is not mentioned anywhere in the previous sentences. But once it is made clear that we are talking about "la verdad", which has feminine gender, it wouldn't make sense to switch to neutral gender again in the next sentence:

—Dime la verdad.
—No quiero Ⓧdecírtelo.

If you change the gender it looks like you're talking about a different thing. So it needs to be:

—Dime la verdad.
—No quiero decírtela.

Similarly, in your second example you can say:

—Mira eso.

And it'd be fine because I don't know what eso is, yet. But once it is clear that it refers to "la manzana", then you need to drop the neutral:

—Mira eso.
—¿La manzana?
—Sí, mírala bien. Es la única amarilla de todo el árbol.

Else it would be really difficult to establish the so much needed context references which Spanish conversation usually relies on.

  • So if my understanding is correct: you only need to make gender agree when the word (not the actual object) has been referred to, or is known in some way. Also, I assume it would be acceptable to refer to the apple as "Mira eso" or "Mira esa", or maybe even "Mira ese" (since you could refer to the apple as an "objectivo" - masculine). Feb 16, 2018 at 11:42
  • So even "Mira esa" would be incorrect (or unpreferable) unless the word "manzana" had been used? Feb 16, 2018 at 11:51
  • Also, what if I referred to the unnamed apple using direct object pronouns instead of demonstratives? For example "Cometelo/Cometela." In that case, is the choice of pronoun also irrelevant until the word "manzana" is invoked? Feb 16, 2018 at 11:55
  • Ok, so in general, use "eso/esto" (and I presume "esos/estos" in plural) when referring to unnamed objects, and in the case of direct object pronouns, it doesn't matter overly much until a word has been mentioned. Correct? Feb 16, 2018 at 12:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.