Esta vs. Ésta

Quick Answer

esta  = this or this one
ésta = Incorrect!

You don't need to write an accent on the e in this word.

Now, wait just a minute…

If you remember being taught some time in the past that esta and ésta were different, you’re not losing your mind! Until a few years ago, esta and ésta were different.

Esta was a demonstrative adjective meaning this, and it appeared before the noun it modified. Ésta was a demonstrative pronoun meaning this or this one, and it took the place of whatever noun it referred to.

For example:

Esta camisa es mía.
This shirt is mine.
 
Ésta es tuya.
This one is yours.
 

So, what happened? Well, first we need to talk a bit about la Real Academia Española,  commonly called la RAE .

La RAE

Founded in Madrid in 1713, la RAE is an institution that seeks to preserve the Spanish language. Preserve it from what? Essentially, from anything that la RAE itself says is not good Spanish. In a nutshell, la RAE decides what counts as correct spelling and grammar in the Spanish-speaking world.

Ésta, we hardly knew ye

Ok, so what does that have to do with esta and ésta? Well, a few years ago la RAE decided that it was no longer necessary to differentiate between esta and ésta. This was not the result of some linguistic temper tantrum. In fact, la RAE had a good motive for sending ésta to the chopping block: the accent is simply not necessary.

In the second example above, Esta es tuya. (This one is yours.), we don’t need an accent to know that esta is a pronoun. We know it’s a pronoun because it has taken the place of the noun it refers to (camisa).

Let’s take a look at a few more examples.

Daughter:
Mamá, ¿esta camisa es mía? 
Mom, is this shirt mine?
Mom:
No, hija, esta es tuya. 
No, honey, this is yours.
Daughter:
¿Cuál? ¿Esta camisa roja? 
Which one? This red shirt?
Mom:
No, esta aquí. Esa camisa roja que está junto a ti es de tu hermana. 
No, this one here. That red shirt that is next to you is your sister’s.

Some of the uses of esta in the dialogue above are adjectives (esta camisa, esta camisa roja), and some are pronouns (esta es tuya, esta aquí). If you can't tell the difference between the two, it's no big deal! Thanks to la RAE, they’re now spelled exactly the same way.

Although ésta is a thing of the past, there is a difference between esta and está . Está is the third person singular form of the verb estar, which means to be. You can see an example of it in the following sentence:

Esa camisa roja que está junto a ti es de tu hermana.
That red shirt that is next to you is your sister’s.

 

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