The demonstratives hic/haec/hoc, iste/ista/istud, ille/illa/illud, is/ea/id, and ipse/ipsa/ipsum


Staff member
The demonstratives hic/haec/hoc, iste/ista/istud, ille/illa/illud, is/ea/id, and ipse/ipsa/ipsum

These can all be used pronominally (i.e. as pronouns, on their own, as in hoc turpe est, "This is shameful") or adjectivally (i.e. as adjectives, together with a noun (or pronoun), as in audite hunc hominem, "Listen to this man"). In the following, I will explain the basic meanings and uses of each of them.

1. Hic, haec, hoc is on the whole equivalent to English "this" or "this one". It is sometimes called the "demonstrative of the first person", because it is used to refer to something which is close to the speaker (whether literally/spatially or figuratively/mentally).

Here are a few examples; four where it is used pronominally, and four where it is used adjectivally. Note that it is sometimes used pronominally where a mere "this" wouldn't work in English, therefore a noun may be added in English translation, thus making it so that "this", in the translation, is used adjectivally; or, alternatively, English may use a personal pronoun (he, she...) instead. For example, hic alone can mean "this man", "this man here", "he" (denoting someone who is close to the speaker, either literally or figuratively); similarly, haec (as feminine singular) can mean "this woman", etc.; hi can mean "these people", etc. Haec as neuter plural means "these things" — though it sometimes can translate to a singular "this" in English, depending on context.

Hic prorsus non mentitur = This man definitely doesn't lie.
Hoc feci = I did this.
Nolite hos contemnere = Do not despise these (people).
Cum haec dixisset, plauserunt omnes = When he had said this (these things), everyone applauded.

Hanc domum meis ego manibus aedificavi = I built this house with my own hands.
Manus haec neminem umquam occidit = This hand has never killed anyone.
Dabo tibi hunc librum, si vis = I'll give you this book, if you want.
Haec cantrix aures meas delectat = This (female) singer delights my ears.

2. Iste, ista, istud is sometimes called the "demonstrative of the second person", because its original function was to denote something that had something to do with the person or people whom the speaker was addressing: "that (of yours)", or "that one (of yours)", "that (which you are talking about, which concerns you, or which has something to do with you in some way or other)". All that I said concerning hic, haec, hoc being sometimes used pronominally where in English an additional noun would be required or a personal pronoun would be used instead, is also true for iste, ista, istud, as well as, in fact, for all demonstrative pronouns (therefore I will no longer mention this when I speak of the other pronouns, but it will sometimes be seen in the examples).

Here are a few example sentences using iste, ista, istud; four where it is used pronominally, and four where it is used adjectivally:

Ista non curo = "I don't care about those things" ---> you could, for example, say this to someone, meaning that you don't care about all they've just said.
Quid istud est? = "What's that?" ---> for example, "that thing you've got there" or "that thing you've mentioned".
Istum nocentem esse probabo = "I will prove that he (that man) is guilty" ---> for example, a prosecutor in court could say this to the advocate of the defending party, meaning "I'll prove that that man (whom you are defending, your client,) is guilty."
Iube istos foris manere = "Tell them/those (people) to wait outside" ---> for example, "those people who are with you", or "those people next to you".

Ista vestis mihi placet = "I like that dress" ---> you could say this to someone about what they're wearing.
Te ista sapientia certe hoc nosse oportet = "With that wisdom (of yours), you must surely know this." ("With your wisdom, you must surely know this"; "You, being of such wisdom, must surely know this.")
Velim mihi aliquot ex istis libris commodes = "I'd like you to lend me some of those books" ---> For example, "some of those books you own (which I saw at your place or which you told me you had)".
Istone modo te putas confecturum esse negotium? = "Do you think you're going to conclude the business that way?" ---> in that way of yours, the method you're using or the method you've mentioned?

Notes: Iste, ista, istud sometimes (but not always) has a pejorative connotation. It was typically used by advocates in court to refer to the opposing party (whereas hic was used to refer to their own client). As already said, its original function was to denote something that had to do with the "second person"; but it came to be sometimes used without second person reference (for example, a prosecutor could call the accused iste (as in the third example sentence above) even when addressing the judges and not the advocate of the accused). It isn't impossible to use other demonstratives to refer to something that belongs to, has to do with, etc. the second person. In late Latin, iste, ista, istud came to be sometimes used instead of hic, haec, hoc. (This usage caught on and perdured into the Romance languages (e.g. Spanish este, esta, esto, "this").)

3. Ille, illa, illud is sometimes called the "demonstrative of the third person", because it basically denotes something that is further away (take this in a broad sense, including "figurative distance"), neither near the speaker nor near their addressee, but might be near a third party: "that", "that over there", "that one".

A few example sentences; four where it is used pronominally, and four where it is used adjectivally:

Amo illam! = "I love her (that woman)!"
Viden illos qui in gradibus templi sedent? = "Do you see those people (over there) who sit on the temple's steps?"
Rogavit quid illud esset = "He asked what that was."
Ille vero non respondit = "But he (that man) didn't respond."

Affer mihi illum librum, quaeso = "Bring me that book (the book over there), please."
Illo tempore bellum cum Gallis gerebatur = "At that time war was being waged with the Gauls."
Tyrannus ille populum pessime tractabat = "That tyrant treated the people very badly."
Tunc vidi statuam illam auream = "Then I saw that golden statue."

Notes: Ille, illa, illud sometimes has a laudative connotation, a bit like "that/the famous..." e.g. Socrates ille Atheniensis = "That Socrates the Athenian", i.e. "The famous Socrates from Athens". After two persons or things (or two sets of persons or things) have been mentioned, ille may be used to mean "the former", whereas hic is used to mean "the latter".

A final note concerning hic, haec, hoc (demonstrative of the first person) vs. iste, ista, istud (demonstrative of the second person) vs. ille, illa, illud (demonstrative of the third person).

This little demonstration (pun originally unintended, but let's keep it) may sum up rather nicely the most basic contrast between these demonstratives: imagine that you are sitting with two friends, and each of you holds a book. You say to one of your friends: "I'll first read this book (pointing to yours — the book of the first person), then that/this one (pointing to the book of the friend you're talking to — the book of the second person), and finally that one (pointing to that of your other friend — the book of the third person)." In Latin, it would be very natural in this context to say: Primum hunc librum legam, deinde istum, denique illum. :)

4. Is, ea, id is a little different from the previous demonstratives, in that it is not something you would say when pointing at something; rather, it is used only 1) to refer back to something/someone either mentioned or clearly implied shortly before; 2) to refer to something/someone that is further described by a clause (like a relative clause or an ut clause; you will see that in the examples). Like the other demonstratives, it has several possible translations: it may translate to "that", "this", "the, "he", "she", "it", "they", "the one (who...)", "someone/something (who/which...)", "a(n)... (who/which...)", "such... (that...)"... depending on context and what sounds best in English. However, regardless of all the possible translations it can have when one wants to translate Latin into correct and idiomatic English, I think I may give you some sense of its basic meaning by saying that, basically, it means either "that [person/thing] (just mentioned)", "this [person/thing] (just mentioned)", "the [person/thing] (just mentioned)" or "that/the [person/thing] (who/which has such and such characteristic, who/which does such and such)". Unlike those we have seen previously, is, ea, id is not a demonstrative that you can use out of the blue to refer to something of which no mention (explicit or obviously implicit) has been made shortly before. For example — I repeat — you can't use it when pointing at something. If you wanted to say "That guy (over there) is my neighbor" in Latin, you would never say is est vicinus meus — no, you'd say ille. You'd say is est vicinus meus only after some mention of the guy. Or if you suddenly saw something weird in the sky and wanted to say "Look at that!" you wouldn't say aspice id, but rather aspice illud.

Here are example sentences using is, ea, id; four where it is used pronominally, and four where it is used adjectivally. After each of them I will indicate in parentheses "type 1" if is, ea, id is used there "to refer back to something/someone either mentioned or clearly implied shortly before" and "type 2" if it is used "to refer to something/someone that is further described by a clause".

Vir honestus fuit in oppidulo non procul Roma sito nomine Lucius. Is duo habebat filios filiamque unam = "There was in a small town not far from Rome an honorable man called Lucius. He had two sons and one daughter." (Type 1)
Marcum conveni eique consilium meum aperui = "I met Marcus and revealed my plan to him" (Type 1)
Constat eum qui plures linguas didicerit etiam suam plus callere quam eum qui nullam praeter suam noverit = "It is certain that someone (a bit more literally "the one" or "he") who has learned several languages even knows his own better than someone (the one/he) who knows none but his own." (Type 2)
Quae iussisti, ea feci, nil amplius = "I did the things you commanded, nothing more." (Type 2 — even if the relative clause precedes its antecedent ea, it is still type 2 rather than type 1.)

Eum librum de quo scripsisti velim ad me mittas = "I would like you to send me that/the book about which you wrote." (Type 2)
Is interpres qui omnia ad verbum transfert malus est interpres = "The/a translator who translates everything word for word is a bad translator." (Type 2)
Ea erat sagacitate ut nihil eum fugere videretur = "He was of such acuteness that nothing seemed to escape him." (Type 2) — Incidentally, this sentence also contains an instance of it used pronominally as type 1 (eum).
Diluculo pugna committitur, totum diem acerrime pugnatur; pugnam nox diremit. Cecidisse eo die dicuntur e nostris ad tria milia, ex hostibus fere totidem = "The battle started at daybreak, they fought very fiercely during the whole day; the night interrupted the battle. It is said that about three thousand of our men fell on that day, and about as many among the enemy." (Type 1)

Notes: The fact that is, ea, id is used specifically to refer to someone/something mentioned or clearly implied shortly before or to someone/something that is further described by a clause doesn't mean that other demonstratives can't also be used in these sorts of situations. They can, but if they are, they will carry their own nuance in addition, whereas is, ea, id is more neutral. The type 1/type 2 thing is my own invention, not any official terminology.

5. Ipse, ipsa, ipsum is used to convey an emphasis similar to that of "(I) myself", "(you) yourself", "(he/she/it) him/her/itself", "(we) ourselves", "(they) themselves", "X in person", "the very (person/thing in question)". When used adjectivally, it can be combined with other demonstratives or personal pronouns just as well as with nouns. E.g. id ipsum = "that very thing", "exactly that"; mihi ipsi = "to me myself", "to me in person"...

Examples (four where it is used pronominally, and four where it is used adjectivally):

Gaius, ut ex ipsius litteris cognovi, Romae est = "Gaius, as I learned from his own letter (literally "from the letter of him himself"), is at Rome."
Marco me ait pecuniam dedisse, cum non Marco, sed ipsi dederim = "He says that I gave the money to Marcus, while I didn't give it to Marcus, but to him" (to him himself, to that very person who says I gave it to Marcus).
Vbi domum offendi ita turbatam, putavi id liberos Marci, non ipsum, fecisse = "When I found the house in such a mess, I thought that Marcus's children had done that, not him himself".
Si quid est quod Iuliam scire velis, ipsi dic = "If there's something that you want Julia to know, say it to her (herself)."

Ipsam reginam allocuta est = "She addressed the queen herself."
Ipse feci = "I did it myself." (Here ipse is used as an adjective agreeing with an implied ego.)
Quo iuvari te putas, id ipsum te perdit = "That/the very thing which you think helps you (more literally "by which you think you are helped"), is causing your ruin."
Fulmen arborem totam, frondes et ramos et truncum et ipsas radices, combussit = "Lightning burned the whole tree; foliage, branches, trunk, and even the roots (and the very roots, and the roots themselves)."

Notes: When "myself", "yourself", "himself", etc. are used as reflexive pronouns (i.e. to denote an object that is the same as the subject of the clause, when the subject acts upon itself as in "He looked at himself in the mirror"), it is a different thing: in Latin, ipse, ipsa, ipsum either won't be used at all here or at any rate won't be used alone. This sort of "myself", "yourself", "himself", etc. is expressed with personal pronouns: "I looked at myself in the mirror" = me in speculo aspexi; "You looked at yourself in the mirror" = te in speculo aspexisti; "He looked at himself in the mirror" = se in speculo aspexit, etc. Ipsum in speculo aspexi/aspexisti/aspexit can't mean "I looked at myself/you looked at yourself/he looked at himself in the mirror", but it means "I/you/he looked at him (an emphatic "him": that very person, that person themselves) in the mirror". There is no difference between reflexive and non-reflexive personal pronouns in Latin, except in the third person (both singular and plural); i.e. "myself" can translate the same as "me", "yourself" can translate the same as "you", and "ourselves" can translate the same as "us", but "himself", "herself", "itself" and "themselves" translate with a specific third-person reflexive pronoun, se. In such reflexive sentences, a form of ipse may be used in addition to the personal pronoun for emphasis, but by no means can it stand alone for it. However, ipse, ipsa, ipsum, as a pronoun, may in some circumstances be used instead of se, notably to avoid confusion or awkward repetitions of se in a dependent clause. E.g. Sperabat Caesarem se ipsi mitem praebiturum = "He hoped that Caesar would show himself (se) kind to him (ipsi)" — to avoid the awkwardness of se sibi referring to two different persons. But this never happens in "directly reflexive" sentences such as "He looked at himself", "They killed themselves" or "She talked to herself". (For more on se, you may have a look at this thread.)


Homo Sapiens
Staff member
Again, optime scriptum!


Feles Curiosissima
Extremely well written!! I found the demonstration ( ;) ) with the books very helpful indeed. :)


Staff member
Yes, I had a little stroke of genius with that "demonstration". :D