Help with Isso, Disto, Aquilo, Aquele, Naquele, Naquilo...

Hello there :)

In order to understand all these words, there are a few important things to notice:

  • There are only 6 words you need to remember: isto, isso, aquilo, este, esse, aquele
  • "Isto, isso, aquilo" work in a way
  • "Este, esse, aquele" work in another way, and these have inflections.
  • Everything else, starting with "d", "n" or "à" is formed by contracting these with prepositions (so you can actually understand them as two words together)

So, let's see those in detail:

Isto, isso, aquilo

There are three genderless pronouns that represent things. They replace the nouns, so they are used alone, and they have no plural form. (They cannot be used as "determiners")

  • Isto = this (thing) near the speaker
  • Isso = that (thing) near the listener (Brazilians mix isto and isso, both meaning this)
  • Aquilo = that (thing) far from both.

See them matching place adverbs here for distance hints:



  • Eu quero isto = I want this
  • Ela bebe aquilo = She drinks that

Este, esse, aquele

There are three demonstrative pronouns that work like adjectives. They must point to a noun in the sentence, and they inflect according to the gender and number of the noun they are pointing to. So they work like an adjective pronoun (a determiner in English grammar).


  • Masculine singular: Este, esse, aquele
  • Feminine singular: Esta, essa, aquela
  • Masculine plural: Estes, esses, aqueles
  • Feminine plural: Estas, essas, aquelas


  • Este homem, Esta mulher, Estes homens, Estas mulheres (man, woman, men, women)
  • Esse carro, essa cor, esses carros, essas cores (car, color, cars, colors)
  • Aquele sapato, aquela bota, aqueles sapatos, aquelas botas (shoe, boot, shoes, boots)

When used alone:

These can also be used alone, without a following noun. But then, the noun is implied and they still need to agree with the implied noun. In this case they will mean "this/that one" or "these/those ones". (English has the option of omitting "one(s)" sometimes)

The distance rules are the same from the previous ones:

  • Isto, este - near the speaker
  • Isso, esse - near the listener (In Brazil, "este" and "esse" are also mixed up)
  • Aquilo, aquele - far from both speaker and listener

How to choose between "isto" and "este":


All others are their COMBINATIONS with PREPOSITIONS.
These combinations do not change the meaning of those words, they just add a preposition to them. So, you can actually understand them as two words attached.

The prepositions are demanded by the verbs or by the specific sentence construction, they don't depend on these pronouns at all, but when the following prepositions are used, they are required to combine (1).

Examples of combinations:

  • de + isto / isso / aquilo = disto / disso / daquilo
  • em + isto / isso / aquilo = nisto / nisso / naquilo
  • a + aquilo = àquilo ("a" only combines with pronouns starting with "a")

These apply the same way with "este / esse / aquele", forming words such as: "deste, dessas, daqueles, nestas, nesses, naquele, àquele, àquelas...."

General Examples:

  • Eu penso naquilo (pensar demands preposition em) = I think about that
  • Ela pensa nisso = she thinks about this/that
  • Eles gostam disto (gostar demands preposition de) = they like this/it
  • Eu gosto daqueles sapatos = I like those shoes
  • Ela gosta desses livros = she likes these/those books
  • Ele pensa nestas botas = He thinks of these boots
  • Eles querem isto. = They want it/this (querer doesn't demand a preposition)
  • Eles querem este (implied masculine noun) = They want this one
  • Elas pensam naquele menino = they think about that boy
  • Eu vou àquela casa (ir demands preposition a) = I go to that house
  • Ela quer aqueles (implied masculine plural noun) = She wants those
  • Ela quer daqueles (implied masculine plural noun) = She wants from those

(1) There is a particular case where the combination is not required and the preposition must be loose: when the word it should combine with is the subject of a clause, normally with an infinitive verb:

  • Eu o escutei antes de ele aparecer = I heard him before he appeared
  • Existe a possibilidade de ele chegar mais cedo = There is the possibility of him arriving earlier
  • Tome o remédio no caso de isto piorar = Take the medicine in case this gets worse

Go back to "Prepositions! - All you wanted to know":

Go back to the Portuguese help Index:

August 26, 2013

This discussion is locked.

In "spoken" Brazilian portuguese though, "esse" is always used as "this"

And you almost never hear "este" used by Brazilians for "this."

Eg. Neymar tweet: Não tenho palavras pra descrever esse cara..

June 24, 2015

Helpful, thanks! Prepositions kill me... it's the last thing you get right in any language, and the first thing you forget when you stop using it regularly.

October 14, 2013

Clearly you haven't met German particles - those are the worst :P

October 29, 2013

Yes, they are... I didn't even realise until I tried to explain the use of "doch" to somebody and couldn't manage to get the point(s) across! Now, to compensate for the particle nightmare, here's some German compound noun amusement for you:

October 30, 2013

Omg an Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher, that's exactly what I needed! :D Thank you Simone.

October 30, 2013

I knew it would CRACK you up ;-)

October 30, 2013

Damn particles!!!

I believe it's even harder to English speakers, since I could find some Portuguese-like assemblies in German, which don't exist in English.

December 7, 2013

I agree with you, I am really fascinated with how closer to Portuguese Geman seems to be some times. For example, they use the Laufen (= correr) in the idiom "como te correu o exame", while English uses "go". I know I've found more along the way, but I don't recall them.

March 3, 2014

I've found that reflexives are used in a very similar way, and English barely uses them.

And the "direct/indirect" verbs match a lot of times, while they are different in English.

I can't remember everything, but there are lots...

March 4, 2014

I agree with everyone, thank you, and I think such kind of summary has to be done for every chapter in every language!

October 26, 2013

I FINALLY get it because of you. Obrigado!

November 3, 2013

Danmoller, this is awesome! I just copied, pasted, and printed this out. It will go in my grammar book. :) Eu aprecio muito sua ajuda!

October 30, 2013

Great contribution, muito obrigado! Just one question, is there any difference in the way "àquilo/àquela" and "aquilo/aquela" are pronounced or stressed?

July 22, 2014

None. They are pronounced just the same.

Some people like to stress the "a" a little or to make it a little longer ou even doubled, but that is not necessary, and never enough to surpass the real stressed one, which is "que/qui".

July 22, 2014

Thank you, this is very helpful. I've been struggling on prepositions in Portuguese.

August 2, 2015

Just to make things clearer, grammarwise the use of este/esse/aquele is closely tied to place adverbs aqui/aí/ali. So if you are having doubts about which one to use, just place the place adverbs next to the pronoun, like this:

-Este aqui é o meu livro. (this one next to me is my book)

-Esse aí é o meu livro. (this one next to you is my book)

-Aquele ali é o meu livro. (that one over there is my book)

As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as "esse aqui" or "aquele aí".

August 18, 2016

Yeah that's all well and good, but I'd like to see rules for abstract things. Like "what do you think about that?" In speech I think most Brazilians would say "isso." But distance has nothing to say about whether it is aquilo or isso.

September 1, 2013

Normally, abstract things are replaced with "isso" (and its combinations with prepositions).

"O que você pensa sobre isso?" / "O que você acha disso?"

Aquilo is used sometimes, but it doesn't lose the "distance" meaning: "O que você pensa sobre aquilo?" (Pointing to something that is happening far away, or talking about some event in the past. In this case, it's a "time distance")

September 3, 2013

Thanks danmoller - this is the best explanation I have seen. It helped me a lot.

October 19, 2013

This is great! Thanks.

August 30, 2013

Any hints about other topics are welcome.

January 22, 2014

Thank you very much. I found an interesting blog post:

The author describes the use of these prepositions as a substitution for words to have less repetitions in sentences. I also like the time examples a lot and that it is explained in Portuguese, but so simple that even I understand it.

January 31, 2015

I just wanted to give you a Lingot because I started learning Português and had been struggling with this prior to your amazing explanation :3

May 10, 2015

Dan, this has been super helpful. I am headed to Portugal in 2 weeks. I realize that I am learning Brazilian Portuguese here, but do the same rules (both official and colloquial) apply to the Portuguese as well?

October 11, 2013

Welcome to Portugal! Don't worry about speaking Brazilian Portuguese here, we'll all understand you.

October 29, 2013

I believe the official rules Apply, but I'm not sure about colloquials. I'm Brazilian, so I really can't tell.

October 12, 2013

I am in Portugal and the person who is teaching me here says the same rules do apply.

October 19, 2013

Same rules. Don't worry. :)

January 11, 2015

The explanation of the contractions was totally what I was missing! Thanks.

January 22, 2014

Thanks, helped me alot! Copy,Paste,Print.. So I can use it in my lessons now. Lingot for you!

February 4, 2014

This a side-comment, not related to the pronouns so skip it if you are only interested in them.

Something I noticed the other day, while dealing with another phrase. "Ir" usually requires 'a', but not always. So be careful with that. "Go to" could be either "Ir a" or "Ir para", depending on the duration of the effect. And "Go by", as in "I go by bus" requires 'de': "eu vou de autocarro".

February 27, 2014

Thank you! This really helps! In my opinion, Duolingo should have taught Isto/Isso/Aquilo/Este/Esse/Aquele/etc first before the lessons on Nisto/Naquele/Desse/Desta/Aquilo/Aquelas. I'm currently on the conjunctions unit and had a hunch that words like desta probably came from de + esta since esta also exists in Spanish, but overall I had a hard time figuring out the rules and ways to organize the info before coming across this post.

May 15, 2014

We brazilians don't mind if u say any word wrong, we'll understand u r from another country so yeah, if u think this is so hard,u shouldn't care. But ofc it's better when someone says correctly the words :P

January 12, 2016

Ótima explicac,ão! I have always heard (and read) what you say, that in Brasil "esse" and "este" mean the same, like "this" in English. So why, so many times, is "this"/"these" not accepted as translation for those words in Duolingo?

January 23, 2016

The course keeps on evolving. When I came in, there was no consistency. Sometimes one was accepted, sometimes the other.

It gets better with time.

Recently, we reviewed that, and we hope most of the cases are covered now. If you find any still wrong, please tell us.

January 23, 2016

Ok, obrigada! Paciência...:)

January 23, 2016

See Daniel's recent comment in this sentence discussion:

There he illustrates the way translations are intended to work now:

this --> isto/isso, este/esse etc
that --> isso/aquilo, esse/aquele etc
isto, este etc --> this
isso, esse etc --> this/that
aquilo, aquele etc --> that

And I presume it is similar for these/those.

January 23, 2016

That's very useful, I'm struggling with this section

October 18, 2013

It's a nightmare. I've written a short piece on this topic, that's how much it annoys me ;-)

October 18, 2013

Thank you so much! Not sure I'll ever get my head round it but at least I'm not floundering in the dark anymore :)

October 19, 2013

Prepositions are without a doubt, the hardest bit about learning Portuguese for me

November 6, 2013

Lovely thank you

January 22, 2014

it is much more understadable now! But I still don't understand the difference between isto and esse.

January 23, 2014

Loosely speaking they can both mean "this/that" but you can only use "este/esse" to refer to masculine things. On the other hand "isto/isso" are neutral and so you can use them to refer to unknown things (and they can be translated as "it"). For example, if there is a weird object near you could ask "O que é isto?" (What is this?).

January 23, 2014

thank you very much. But I still don't understand the difference between este and esse.

January 23, 2014

In short: esTe is used for things near the speaker, while esSe for things near the listener.

But this rule is hardly followed by Brazilians, who mix them up. So it ends up as if both were the same.

The problem is with abstract things, they have no "distance". So, Brazilians prefer using "esse" while English speakers prefer "that". But that is not a rigid rule.

January 23, 2014

This has helped a lot, however I am still struggling with parts eg what are the rules for daquilo and dequele? then there is naquilo? my head is swimming with it.. My wife is Portuguese and she is starting to lose her patients with me trying to explain, maybe it need it explaining a bit more simply. can anyone help?

March 3, 2014

You should look at the basic word. There are three, depending on distance, so let's focus on the farther one: "aquilo". Now, you can inflect this word for gender and number, as usual in Portuguese: masculine takes the general ending '-ele', feminine takes the ending '-ela'. For plural, simply add '-s', but remember that the neutrals (eg: 'aquilo') do not have plural forms.

Next, you can add prepositions in front of these words, and they can contract with a few of them. Which one you use depends on the rest of the phrase, so first try to write the phrase with the right preposition and then the pronoun. For exemple, you can have: "de + aquele"; "em + aquela"; "a + aquilo" and so on. I don't remember others that can be contracted. The contractions, I think, are easy to form:

  • "de + aqu..." = "daqu..."

  • "em + aqu..." = "naqu..." (em + aqu... > enaqu... > naqu...)

  • "a + aqu..." = "àqu..."

You can use these schemes with other words than just these pronouns. For example:

  • "de + aqui = daqui"

  • "em + as = nas"

  • "a + a = à"

Just remember, there are 3 base words (isto, isso, aquilo) and these inflect at the end and contract at the beginning. Once you understand the rules for inflecting and contracting, you'll have it easy.

March 3, 2014

- Three base self-standing words: isto, isso and aquilo.
- Three base adjective function words: este, esse and aquele.

All others are combinations with prepositions. Prepositions demanded by the verbs or by the sentence construction, not related do the meaning of these particular words.

See some cases (I'll use places, because prepositions behavior is better, notice the main purpose is: prepositions are independent from those words, they are dependent on other things)

  • Where are you? I'm at that place. See that this sentence demands a preposition for places, which is "at". (In portuguese, we use "em")
    Onde você está?? Estou naquele (em + aquele) lugar.

Notice that "aquele" means exactly the same, it just got a preposition demanded by the sentence. You can't just say "estou um lugar", you must say "estou em um lugar".

  • Eu venho daquele (de+aquele) lugar - I come FROM that place. Again, aquele continues to mean the same, it just got a preposition "de", meaning from. You can't say "eu venho lugar", you must say "eu venho de um lugar".

  • Eu vou àquela padaria - I'm going to that bakery. You can't just say "vou padaria", you must say "vou à padaria"

March 3, 2014

Thank you for your help everyone, Im starting to get to grips with it now, Wish it was all a bit easier though :)

March 4, 2014

I don't get the last two... when translating, how do I know if a verb demands a preposition, and which one it demands?

March 6, 2014

The only way I've found for that, in any language, is to consult tables or learn by example. In general, prepositions have several meanings, and they tend to be the hardest part of language learning for me. Maybe a good way is to memorize the meaning of pairs "verb + preposition", instead of just the verb itself.

March 6, 2014


March 6, 2014

Top post thank you very much! I like the combination, hopefully when the penny drops its going to make it extremely easy.

March 27, 2014

This is an awesome explanation. I was really struggling with this!

April 9, 2014

Super Stuff really appreciated. :-)

May 8, 2014

Danmoller, indeed very helpfull. I have two questions: ela pensa nisso- you translate as- she thinks about this/that/it. If it would be ; she thinks about this, should 'nt you say: ela pensa nisto? The other question: ela gosta desses livros: she likes those/these books. he again, if it would be these books should 'nt you translate as : ela gosta destes livros? Otherwise, I am impressed and glad to know more people struggle with the same problem.

July 20, 2014

In Brazil, "este" and "esse" are so mixed up that we barely know the difference.

July 20, 2014

thanks, I know duo does'nt except the mixing up of este and esse.

July 20, 2014

Hello, This is great work!!!

However, I did notice one small error in your "General Examples".

[Ele pensa nestas botas = She thinks of these boots]

Shouldn't this read: "He thinks of these boots?"

December 30, 2015

Of course!

Thank you very much :)

December 30, 2015

What do you mean with "(1) There is a particular case where the combination is not required and the preposition must be loose: when the word it should combine with is the subject of a clause, normally with an infinitive verb"?

January 20, 2018

Many thanks for taking the time to write this. I hope you don't mind a small suggestion: you talk about the words like este/esse/aquele as pronouns but in all of your examples you use them as adjectives and so I thought you could usefully make the distinction somewhere. Other than gender, this is another aspect that sets isto/isso/aquilo apart from these words and a small discussion could only improve this already very useful guide.

November 27, 2013

You're right. Este/esse/aquele are demonstrative adjectives, they are used before a noun, while isto/isso/aquilo replace the noun.

November 27, 2013

Well, I think they are more flexible than that. Here's an example taken from Duolingo, "Este é um animal raro", here "este" is a demonstrative pronoun but in one of Daniel's examples we have "Ela gosta desses livros" and here "esses" is a demonstrative adjective.

November 27, 2013

As far as I know, I'm not an expert, they are all pronouns. I've never seen the term "adjetivo demonstrativo" when studying portuguese.

Got to my grammar book, and they are indeed pronouns. (At least in Portuguese they are called like this)

November 28, 2013

That's very interesting and useful to know. I'm really just talking about their function rather than their name though. In the sentences (1) "Aquelas são minhas botas" and (2) "Aquelas botas são minhas" the word "aquelas" has swapped roles from being a true pronoun in (1) to acting like an adjective in (2). (incidentally, "minhas" has also swapped roles from adjective to pronoun - which is the difference between "my" and "mine" in English, of course).

One point you make right at the beginning of your article is that isto/isso/aquilo replace nouns and your examples demonstrate that very well. When you illustrate the other words (este and all the rest) though, all your example sentences show these words used as if they were adjectives rather than true pronouns. I guess all I'm really saying is that a couple of examples of that kind of usage would help to make your guide complete.

November 28, 2013

I did some addings to the text. They really work as adjectives in most cases (still called pronouns in Portuguese). Regarding their function, they are called "adjunto adnominal", which means something like "comes together with the noun".

Articles and adjectives can be "adjuntos adnominais" too.

I didn't find the term "adjetivo demonstrativo" in Portuguese. Looks like there's a little difference between languages about how we call them, but their functions are the same.

November 30, 2013

I have just came across these terms which are closer to the English expressions: "pronome demonstrativo adjetivo" and "pronome demonstrativo substantivo". See:

June 13, 2015
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