Using 'Donde' and Related Terms

Spanish Makes Distinctions Not Made With 'Where' in English

bibles in spain chapel
Las escrituras son el espejo donde vemos el alma. (The scriptures are the mirror in which we see the soul.) Photo from the Capilla de Santa María la Real in O Cebreiro, Spain. Jesus Solana/Creative Commons.

Donde and related words and phrases are used in Spanish to indicate the concept of where. The different forms can be easy to confuse, and even native speakers don't always clearly distinguish between sound-alikes such as adonde and a donde. Here are the most common uses:

Donde typically functions as a relative pronoun following a noun or preposition. Its use is a bit broader than the English "where," so it can sometimes be translated as "which" or "in which." Note also that the English "where" often is used without a preposition even though the preposition is mandatory in Spanish, as the parenthetical words show:

  • Es la casa donde nació mi madre. It's the house where my mother was born.
  • El lugar donde vivimos nos hace quienes somos. The place where we live makes us what we are.
  • Las escrituras son el espejo donde vemos el alma. The scriptures are the mirror in which we see the soul.
  • Invierte tu dinero en donde esté tu corazón. Invest your money where your heart is.
  • No sé de donde obtenía ella el poder para ver el futuro. I don't know (from) where she got the power to see the future.
  • Fueron a donde estaban las chicas. They went (to) where the girls were.
  • Viajo a donde los mapas terminan. I'm journeying to where the maps end.
  • Encontraron un lugar estratégico desde donde se podían controlar las cañones. They found a strategic place from which they could control the cannons.

Dónde is similar to donde but is used in questions, indirect questions and exclamations. If you're asking something that expresses the concept of "where to" and want to use the preposition a, use adónde (see below), which is the equivalent of a dónde, although the former is preferred.

Note that dónde without a preposition does not indicate movement:

  • ¿Dónde comemos hoy? Where are we eating today?
  • ¿Dónde en el web puedo crear mi cuenta? Where on the web page can I create my account?
  • ¿De dónde eres tú? Where are you from?
  • ¡Hacia dónde vamos? Where in the world are we going (toward)?
  • No sé dónde está. I don't know where he is.

Adonde usually functions as a relative adverb, typically following a location and followed by a verb of motion.

  • Pueden escoger la escuela adonde quieren enviar a sus hijos. You can choose the school (to) where you want to send your children.
  • Aquella es la playa adonde fuimos hace unos años. That is the beach were we went (to) some years ago.
  • Están en un remoto pueblo adonde viajaron para dar un concierto. They're in a remote village (to) where they went to give a concert.

Adónde is used in direct and indirect questions to indicate motion toward a place:

  • ¿Adónde vamos después que morimos? Where do we go (to) after we die?
  • ¿Adónde sales con tus amigos? Where are you leaving to with your friends?
  • No tengo la menor idea adónde nos llevará. I don't have the slightest idea (to) where it will take us.

For Beginners: What You Should Know First

You can usually use ¿dónde? when asking where someone or something is. Use ¿adónde? when asking where someone is going:

  • ¿Dónde está? Where are you?
  • ¿Adónde vas? Where are you going?
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Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Donde' and Related Terms." ThoughtCo, May. 7, 2016, thoughtco.com/using-donde-and-related-terms-3080301. Erichsen, Gerald. (2016, May 7). Using 'Donde' and Related Terms. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/using-donde-and-related-terms-3080301 Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Donde' and Related Terms." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/using-donde-and-related-terms-3080301 (accessed January 21, 2018).