In Spanish we can use both ello and eso as pronouns to refer to previously mentioned things or ideas. The main difference between the two is:
- ello is more formal and less commonly used
- eso is more colloquial and more commonly used
They both mean either it or that, although depending on the context, sometimes it is not possible to use a literal translation in English. Both are often used after prepositions.
Let's see some examples:
Carlos está pasando por un momento difícil. Eso me entristece.Carlos is going through a difficult patch. It/that makes me sad.
Hoy vamos a aprender sobre la Revolución Francesa. Para ello, vamos a empezar leyendo sobre la sociedad francesa de esa época.Today we are going to learn about the French Revolution. To achieve that, we will start reading about French society back then.
-¿Me ayudarás a repasar para el examen? -Sí, cuenta con ello.-Will you help me revise for the exam? -Yes, [you can] count on it.
Los divorcios suelen ser complicados. Por ello, debemos dialogar mucho con los hijos durante el trámite.Divorces are usually complicated. That's why [lit: because of that], we must talk a lot with the children during the process.
Nuestro hijo tiene problemas en el colegio y necesitamos hablar de eso urgentemente.Our son is having problems at school and we need to talk about it urgently.
Las ventas han bajado considerablemente. Ello se debe a la mala calidad de los productos.There has been a considerable drop in sales. That is due to the bad quality of the products.
In all the examples above, eso and ello would be interchangeable, although as already explained, using "ello" conveys a more formal register.
However, when it/that are the direct object of the sentence, only eso is acceptable. Have a look:
Incluya eso en el contrato por favor.Include that in the contract please.
This is incorrect:
"Incluya ello en el contrato por favor."
With "gustar", we generally use "eso" as the subject of the sentence. Using "ello" is unusual.
En mi empresa los sueldos son bajos y a mí eso no me gusta.Salaries in my company are low and I don't like that.
This would be unusual:
"En mi empresa los sueldos son bajos y a mí ello no me gusta."
See also Using ese, esa, esos, esas, eso for that one, those ones and that (demonstrative pronouns)
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