Acá, allá, aquí, ahí, allí. How do you say here and there in Spanish?Tweet
Here and there in Spanish
In English we have only two location adverbs to describe where people or things are: here and there. In Spanish, there are more options, because there are two sets of adverbs, with three different positions:
First of all, we should keep in mind that there is no big difference between one set and the other. Even more, the first one, with only two adverbs, borrows ahí from the second one to complete its void for the not too far proximity position.
You must have read tons of times that the three part system has to do with things being close to where I am (aquí/acá), a bit further away (ahí), and far away (allí/allá).
But you probably never heard the real grammatical reason for which Spanish has three positions is this: each of the proximity adverbs has to do with one of the three grammatical persons of the speech. Thus,
aquí/acá relates to here, where I am or we are;
ahí relates to there, where you are, and
allí/ahí relates to there, where he, she, it or they are.
So far so good, but how do students use this when speaking? Well, an easy way to put it is:
-When you are talking about where you are, use aquí/acá. This area can be as small as the square feet you are standing on, or your whole country if you are talking about the way people are where you are.
-When you want to mention things that are away from you, but not much, and especially close to the person you are talking to face to face, use ahí.
-When you want to talk about things that are far, either not close to the person you are talking to, or close to them when they are far (eg. when you are talking to them on the phone), use allí/allá.
• You are walking down the street with a friend. You just walk by a restaurant you like. You say: “Aquí/Acá se come muy bien”. (You can eat very well here).
• You are sitting at the restaurant table. The waiter comes to you, and you ask where the restrooms are. The waiter could either say: “Los baños están ahí” (The restrooms are there), if they are not too far, and it’s quite obvious where they are. For example, when the waiter points his finger, you can see the door to the restrooms.
• Or he could also say: “Los baños están allí/allá” (the restrooms are there – same translation as the previous one in English) if they are further away, behind some wall, up the stairs, etc., when it’s not so easy to see where they are. In this case, just pointing probably won’t do, and the waiter will have to give some extra directions.
Photo by: Ana Paula Tello