In Spanish there are five common adverbs that express "here" and "there":
- aquí (here)
- acá (here)
- ahí (there)
- allí (there)
- allá (there)
Aquí and acá = here
AQUÍ and ACÁ are used to refer to a near distance, i.e near the speaker, the same way it is used in English. Acá can be used for a more "vague/less specific" here/somewhere here, but aquí and acá are usually pretty much interchangeable. Have a look and listen to these examples:
Mi cuaderno está aquí.My notebook is here.
Aquí están las llaves del coche.The car keys are here.
Acá en este rincón tienes todos los juguetes.Here in this corner you have all the toys.
Acá en este barrio hay muchas cafeterías buenas.Here in this neighbourhood there are lots of good coffee shops.
Ahí, allí, allá = there
Unlike in English there are 3 adverbs to express the notion of there. The difference can be tricky to understand for learners. We need to look at these from two different perspectives/scenarios:
- relative distance from both the speaker and listener when they are together
- relative distance to the listener who is not close to the speaker, i.e. they are some distance apart
When using ahí, there are two different perspectives/scenarios to consider:
1. relative distance from both the speaker and listener when they are together
2. relative distance to the listener who is not close to the speaker, i.e. they are some distance apart.
Scenario 1 - the speaker and listener are together:
- AHÍ refers to a middle distance between the speaker and listener and the person or object they are talking about.
Ahí está Fernando, vamos a saludarle.Fernando is there, let's say hello to him.
In this example, the speaker and listener are together and they are talking about another person (Fernando) who is a further away from both of them.
Scenario 2 - the listener is not near the speaker:
- AHÍ refers to a person or object near the listener.
Tus anteojos están ahí, ¡encima de tu cabeza!Your glasses are there, on top of your head!
Bear in mind, that even when the speaker and the listener are far away from each other (for example, they are having a phone conversation) the speaker is going to use ahí (despite being far away from the listener) to refer to anything that is near the listener, in the listener's area, something that happens where the listener lives. For example:
¿Y cómo está el tiempo ahí en Bogotá?And what's the weather like there in Bogotá? [where you are now/where you live]
Allí and Allá
In both scenarios, ALLÍ and ALLÁ refer to anything at a greater distance from both the speaker and listener, the same way "there/over there" is used in English. Although ALLÁ very often refers to a very remote place, it is pretty much interchangeable with allí. Have a look and listen to these examples:
Have a look and listen to these examples:
Los servicios están allí, al fondo del pasillo.The toilets are over there, at the end of the corridor.
Allá en aquellos países nórdicos hace mucho frío.There in those nordic countries it's very cold.
Me encanta Japón. Quiero ir allí este verano.I love Japan. I want to go there this summer.
Fuimos allá, a su casa, para hablar con ella.We went there, to her house, to talk to her.
Los baños están allí, al fondo del pasillo.The toilets are over there, at the end of the corridor.
Juana está en Tailandia. Desde allá me mandó una postal.Juana is in Thailand. She sent me a postcard from there.
Remember that using ahí or allí/allá is subjective and depends on how near or far away the speaker "feels" the object/place/person is. This "subjectivity" is at the heart of deciding if the speaker in scenario 1 is referring to a "middle" distance or a greater/far away distance.
See also Difference between este, ese and aquel (demonstrative adjectives)
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