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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": https://www.duolingo.com/comment/3857621


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.


I FINALLY get it because of you. Obrigado!

[deactivated user]

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

    • 1191

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


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


    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".


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


    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".


    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.


    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")


    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?


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


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


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

    [deactivated user]

      Same rules. Don't worry. :)


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


      This is great! Thanks.


      Any hints about other topics are welcome.


      Thank you very much. I found an interesting blog post: http://vinicblog.blogspot.de/2010/01/esse-este-neste-nesse-deste-desse.html

      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.


      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


      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.


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


      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: http://ladyofthecakes.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/in-need-of-an-eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher/


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


      I knew it would CRACK you up ;-)


      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.


      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.


      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...


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


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


      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".


      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.


      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..


      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


      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?


      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.


      Ok, obrigada! Paciência...:)


      See Daniel's recent comment in this sentence discussion: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/13054243

      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.


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


      It's a nightmare. I've written a short piece on this topic, that's how much it annoys me ;-) http://ladyofthecakes.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/prepositions-so-much-depends-of-them/


      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 :)


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


      Lovely thank you


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


      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?).


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


      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.


      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?


      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.


      - 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"


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


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


      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.


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


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


      Super Stuff really appreciated. :-)


      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.


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


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


      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?"


      Of course!

      Thank you very much :)


      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"?

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