A friend from Argentina (native) and I (non-native) have been arguing for the past few hours about the grammatical validity of the following bolded sentence:

«Este hecho es interesante: Todo el territorio canadiense de Nunavut cabe dentro de México.»

«Ya sabía ese.»

He believes that the sentence is grammatically correct because there is an implied gender in the "ese" (el hecho), which he backs up with sources [1][2][3]. These sources state something along the lines of the following:

The neuter forms (esto, eso, aquello) are used to talk about an object you don’t recognize or about an idea or statement.

His argument is that, since I'm not referring to an idea or a statement, but rather a fact (el hecho), ese (instead of eso) is the correct word to use. Is he correct?

5 Answers 5


Some may say that "a fact is a statement that can be verified. It can be proven to be true or false through objective evidence". So you're referring to a statement there, this one: "Todo el territorio canadiense de Nunavut cabe dentro de México". So it matches the rule that you found.

You can find a similar example having a fact replaced by "eso" here in a more reputed source, the RAE, as part of a detailed explanation about the use of "demostrativos neutros" in Spanish.

En Mogador los grillos buscan el calor del fuego y por eso se alojan en las cocinas de las casas

The fact/statement: los grillos buscan el calor del fuego
Replaced by: eso

In Spain, we would use "eso" in your example but the other variant is not grammatically incorrect as far as I know.


There are two separate issues:

  • is it right or wrong?
  • what is most appropriate? natural?

Is ese right? Yes, it refers to the words "este hecho".

Is eso right? Yes, it refers to a fact about certain Canadian territory.

What is most appropriate? I don't know... What is most natural? I think, in this case, eso is what most native speakers would say, in general.

But check this out:

-- Este chiste es divertido: Qué hace una rata en una esquina? [...]

-- Ya sabía ese.

Here the structure is vey similar, but ese is the usual (refers to este chiste). Because a joke is not a fact/statement, we do not use eso here.

  • Ahora quiero saber: ¿qué hace una rata en una esquina? Commented Mar 5 at 18:34
  • Good point. The pronoun "ese" works well for "chiste" in that position after the verb "saber", but not for "hecho".
    – Gustavson
    Commented Mar 5 at 20:02
  • 2
    @A.R. Está esperando un rato. 🤣
    – Pablo H
    Commented Mar 5 at 20:39

Basic summary:

  • that -> eso
  • that one -> ese/esa

"Ya sabía eso" = "I already knew that"

"Ya sabía esa (pregunta)" = "I already knew that one" (while playing Trivial Pursuit, or working with flashcards, for example)


If you translate that conversation into English, you would have:

-Here is a fun fact. All the territory of Nunavut fits inside Mexico.
-I already knew that.

But, if you are talking about fun facts and your friend comes up with one, you might answer slightly differently:

-Here is a fun fact. All the territory of Nunavut fits inside Mexico.
-I already knew that one. [Meaning: I already knew that fun fact.]

We have the same difference in Spanish. If there is a known antecedent (in this case, hecho interesante), you may use ese as a gendered pronoun that substitutes for the known antecedent; otherwise, you should use eso, which is indeterminate.


As a matter of translation into Spanish:

ese/esa is that [noun] (masculine or feminine word). eso just means that. Personally, on the Internet, if I want to say I already know that I would say: Ya sabía eso. And not: Ya sabía ese. I already knew that one [ese hecho].

«Este hecho es interesante: Todo el territorio canadiense de Nunavut cabe dentro de México.»

«Ya sabía ese.» [I already knew that fact.]

Yes, ese is masculine and would be for el hecho. But this is not a grammar question. It is about what one says in situ.

«Este hecho es interesante: Todo el territorio canadiense de Nunavut cabe dentro de México.»

«Ya sabía eso.»

I already knew that. Where that refers to the whole sentence and not to any individual word in it.

So, you are both right. He is right about the grammar but I believe you are right about the situation.

  • Pues, en este caso, a mí no me importa la distincción entre los dos. Tienes razón, eso se refiere a la declaración "Todo el territorio..." y ese refiere al "hecho," pero aquí el hecho y la declaración son lo mismo. Así es una distincción de gramática solamente, pero no una distincción semántica. El significado es igual. Quizás lo mejor es ésto: ese y esa se traduce como that one, y eso como that solamente. Commented Mar 5 at 18:27
  • 1
    Al contrario, para mí, la diferencia está en la situación pragmática. La deíxis no es lo mismo. Decir eso y ese que implica [el hecho] no es exactamente igual.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 5 at 18:37
  • Sí, tienes razón, la deíxis difiere un poco. Aún así, ninguna manera es errónea. Necessitaría más contexto para decedir cual preferiría. Ordinariamente, preferiría eso. Pero imagine: dos amigos se turnan para contar hechos los que no sabe el otro. Ahora, preferiría ese. Commented Mar 5 at 18:47

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