Using demonstrative adjectives to refer to time (present, past and future)

Demonstrative adjectives are usually used as spatial references, but they can also be used to establish temporal references in order to refer to the present, the past and the future.

 

Este/esta/estos/estas

Esta semana no ha parado de llover.It hasn't stopped raining this week.

Estos meses no dejará de aumentar el paro.In the coming months, unemployment will continue increasing.

In the first example above, esta refers to present time (esta semana, i.e the current week) while in the second example, estos refers to a near future (estos meses, i.e the upcoming months). When used with El Presente sometimes it's difficult to know without a bit more context whether it is referring to the present or the future. For example:

Este mes tengo mucho trabajo.I have/am having a lot of work this month.

Here, the speaker could be referring to the current month which they are still in, or they could be referring to this "coming" month. Remember that one use of El Presente is to refer to future events. See Using El Presente in order to refer to a future action (only future time indications)

 

Ese/esa/esos/esas

Ese día estaba muy enferma y no vine a trabajar.I was very sick that day and I didn't come to work.

Recuerdo ese día como una ocasión muy especial.I remember that day as a very special occasion.

¿Tendrás más tiempo para ese día?Will you have more time that day?

In the first and second examples above, ese día refers to a past event while in the third example ese día refers to a future event.

 

Aquel/aquella/aquellos/aquellas

¡Qué tiempos aquellos en que no existían los móviles y se conversaba más!What an interesting time it was when mobile phones didn't exist and we talked more!

¡Qué semana aquella que pasamos en Ibiza!What a beautiful week we spent in Ibiza!

We can only use aquel, aquella, aquellos and aquellas to refer to a past event. Very often this use indicates an element of nostalgia. We do not use it to refer to present or future events.

In the examples above, aquel / aquella / aquellos / aquellas refer to a past event that is further away in the time in the speaker's mind compared to ese/esa/esos/esas.

Have a look at these two examples to see the difference:

¡Qué buenos recuerdos tengo de ese viaje!What good memories I have of that journey!

¡Qué buenos recuerdos tengo de aquel viaje!What good memories I have of that journey!

In the first sentence, the speaker feels "closer" in time to the journey while in the second sentence the speaker sees it as a more "far away" idea, yet they are both referring to the same journey. So, using ese or aquel is sometimes subjective.

See also Adjetivo demostrativo.

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Examples and resources

Estos meses no dejará de aumentar el paro.In the coming months, unemployment will continue increasing.
Ese día estaba muy enferma y no vine a trabajar.I was very sick that day and I didn't come to work.
¡Qué buenos recuerdos tengo de ese viaje!What good memories I have of that journey!
Este mes tengo mucho trabajo.I have/am having a lot of work this month.
¡Qué buenos recuerdos tengo de aquel viaje!What good memories I have of that journey!
Recuerdo ese día como una ocasión muy especial.I remember that day as a very special occasion.
¡Qué semana aquella que pasamos en Ibiza!What a beautiful week we spent in Ibiza!
Esta semana no ha parado de llover.It hasn't stopped raining this week.
¿Tendrás más tiempo para ese día?Will you have more time that day?
¡Qué tiempos aquellos en que no existían los móviles y se conversaba más!What an interesting time it was when mobile phones didn't exist and we talked more!
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