Using aquí, ahí and allí = here and there

Note that this is a Europe focused lesson. Your active focus is Latin America.

In Spanish there are three adverbs that express here and there:

aquí (here)

ahí (there)

allí (there)

Aquí = here

AQUÍ is used to refer to a near distance, i.e. near the speaker, the same way it is used in English. 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.

Ahí and Allí = there

Unlike in English there are 2 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:

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

Ahí

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.
Ahí está tu bolígrafo, al lado de tu libro.Your pen is there, near your book.

 

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:

¿Qué tiempo hace ahí en Japón?What's the weather like there in Japan?

Allí

In both scenarios, ALLÍ refers to anything at a greater distance from both the speaker and listener, the same way "there/over there" is used in English. 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.

Me encanta Japón. Quiero ir allí este verano.I love Japan. I want to go there this summer.

Remember that using ahí or allí 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).

 

Want to make sure your Spanish sounds confident? We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Ahí está tu bolígrafo, al lado de tu libro.Your pen is there, near your book.
Ahí está Fernando, vamos a saludarle.Fernando is there, let's say hello to him.
¿Qué tiempo hace ahí en Japón?What's the weather like there in Japan?
Aquí están las llaves del coche.The car keys are here.
Me encanta Japón. Quiero ir allí este verano.I love Japan. I want to go there this summer.
Mi cuaderno está aquí.My notebook is here.
Los servicios están allí, al fondo del pasillo.The toilets are over there, at the end of the corridor.
Let me take a look at that...