Translating "Here" and "There" While Speaking Spanish

Using the adverbs 'aquí,' 'acá,' 'ahí,' 'allí' and 'allá'

Panoramic of the mayan ruins of Tulum, Mexico
Mayan ruins at Tulum, Mexico. Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

Broadly speaking, in English something or someone can be in one of two places: here or there. In Spanish, there are three relative locations or places of position. Those locations are aquí, roughly the equivalent of "here"; ahí, roughly the equivalent of "there" when speaking of an object or action that is close to the person being spoken to; and allí, roughly the equivalent of "there" or "over there" when speaking of an object that is distant from both the speaker and the person being spoken to.

Grammatically, all of these words are known as adverbs of place or position. These words can also substitute as pronouns in a sentence. In Spanish, all these forms have an accent mark over the final vowel.

Regional Differences With Here, There and Over There

In some parts of Latin America, you may hear acá for "here" and allá for "over there," instead of, or in addition to, aquí, allí, and ahí. You may also find some subtle variations in how these terms are used in different regions. 

A memorization technique is to remember these adverbs in order from closest to farthest: aquí (acá), ahí, and allí (allá). In most situations, acá is synonymous with aquí, and you will find that some countries use acá more frequently, while some Spanish speakers exclusively use aquí.

Differentiating Between Use Cases

Although allí and ahí can sound similar in regions where the "double-l," ll, which sounds like a "y" sound, is softened and often translated the same in English, do not to confuse the two words.

As examples, if you ask a native Spanish speaker, ¿Qué pasa ahí?, which means, "What's happening there?" then the person will likely look in his or her vicinity. But ¿Qué pasa allí?, translates to, "What's happening over there?" and will have the person looking in the distance.

Place Adverb Spanish Sentence English Translation
aquí Vente aquí para comer. Come here and eat.
aquí La gente aquí es muy pacífica. The people here are very peaceful.
aquí Haz clic aquí.haber Click here.
acá ¡Más acá! More over this way! or Closer!
acá Así no se hacen las cosas acá. That's not how we do things here.
ahí Te puedes sentar ahí. You can seat yourself there.
ahí Como siempre ahí. I always eat there.
allí ¿Hay alguien allí? Is someone there?
allí El hombre que nunca estuvo allí (movie title) "The Man Who Wasn't There"
allí Allí viene el heladero. There comes the ice cream man (in the distance).
allá Aquellos países allá en la Africa. Those countries over there in Africa.
allá La torta está allá. The cake is over there.

Demonstrative Adjectives Corresponding With Place Adverbs

Place adverbs can roughly correspond to demonstrative adjectives and pronouns. The adverbs aquí, ahí, and allí correspond to the demonstratives este, ese, and aquel, respectively. There are multiple forms depending on gender and number.

Place Adverb Demonstrative Adjectives
aquí, acá este (this), esta (this), éste (this one), estos (these), estas (these)
ahí ese (that), esa (that), ése (that one), esos (those), esas (those)
allí, allá aquel (that over there), aquél (that one over there), aquella (that over there), aquellos (those over there), aquellas (those over there).

Place Adverbs That Substitute as Pronouns

As in English, place adverbs can occasionally be used as pronouns. "Here" and "there" stand in as place nouns. A couple examples include: Los dulces de aquí son muy caros, which means, "The candy from here is very expensive," and "Desde allí puede ver el lago," which means, "From there you can see the lake."

Tricky Translations

When translating, the meaning of a Spanish sentence, beware getting tripped up by the existential use of the verb haber, the conjugated form hay, meaning "there is" or "there are." It is easy to confuse allí meaning, "there," with the existential use of haber, such as using hay to mean "there is" or "there are." For example, Hay dos libros" and "Dos libros están allí" can both be translated as, "There are two books." The two sentences in Spanish do not mean the same thing. "Hay dos libros" means "two books exist," while "dos libros están allí" means, "two books are in that location."

Nonlocational Usage for Adverbs of Place

These adverbs occasionally used in time references, meaning something like "at this time" or "at that time" — or, informally, "now" and "then." Two examples: De aquí en adelante, todo es desconocido. (From now going ahead, everything is unknown.) Hasta allí todo estaba bien. (Until then, everything was fine.)

Key Takeaways

  • The three main adverbs of location are aquí (here), ahí (there), and allí (there, but farther away).
  • In some areas, acá (here) and allá (there) are used additionally or instead.
  • When translating from English to Spanish, do not confuse "there" as a location with "there" as a term of existence.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "Translating "Here" and "There" While Speaking Spanish." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Erichsen, Gerald. (2020, August 27). Translating "Here" and "There" While Speaking Spanish. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Translating "Here" and "There" While Speaking Spanish." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).