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The Three Ways to Say "There" in Spanish: Pronunciation and Usage

Do you know how to say "there" in Spanish? There are three different ways: ahí, allí and allá. Today's lesson will explore the differences and similarities between them in both pronunciation and usage. 


Pronunciation of the Words for "There" in Spanish

Let's learn how to pronounce the three ways to say "there" in Spanish.



When listening to this word, keep in mind that the letter h in Spanish is silent (see Spanish Alphabet: Letters and Pronunciation to review this and more). Let's hear it in context:


Ahí está.

There it is.

Caption 10, Animales en familia La operación de Yaki - Part 1

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Although the word allí in Spanish is often confused with words like hay, ay, and ahí, its pronunciation is actually different from ahí due to the double L (ll) sound in Spanish, which is equivalent to the letter y. Let's listen to it:


Allí, los productos son muy frescos.

There, the products are very fresh.

Caption 11, Ariana Cena especial

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Hence, the pronunciation difference between the words ahí and allí can be broken down as follows:


ahí = ah-ee

allí = ah-yee


That said, this difference can be very hard to hear for non-native speakers, especially with accents from Spain or other regions where the ll/y sound is quite subtle. This sound is, however, more distinct in other regions like the Dominican Republic, where it sounds like a soft g or j, and Argentina and Uruguay, where it sounds like "sh," as we hear in this caption:


Por allí, están los botones "hide".

Over there are the "hide" buttons.

Caption 34, Julieta Promo

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The difference in the final letter makes the word allá stand out even more from its predecessors. Let's hear it pronounced:


Aha... allá.

Uh-huh... there.

Caption 55, Aprendiendo con Priscilla Juego de palabras

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Using the Words for "There" in Spanish

Now let's explore the difference in meaning between the different words for "there" in Spanish. 



The RAE (Real Academia Española) defines the word ahí as "en" or "ese lugar" ("in" or "to that place") or simply "ese lugar" (that place). Having said that, remember that ese in Spanish is the "nearer" version of "that" with definitions ranging from "near the speaker," "far from the speaker but near to the listener" or "close but not within reach." With this in mind, let's see a couple of examples of the word ahí in context.


¿Me puedo sentar ahí? -Claro.

Can I sit there? -Of course.

Caption 27, Confidencial: Broma pesada Capítulo 1 - Part 8

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Ahí está. 

There it is.

Caption 41, Ana Carolina Recorrido por el parque

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While the English translation of the definition for allí is the same as for ahí ("in" or "to that place" or "that place"), the difference lies in the replacement of the word ese with aquel, which also means "that" but constitutes a further distance (as explained in this lesson on demonstrative adjectives) that might be thought of as "far from both the speaker and the listener." Its translation can thus be either "there" or "over there." Let's see two examples where the speakers refer to locations far from where they currently are:


Y allí existe una de las mayores huertas de España,

And there, there is one of the biggest vegetable gardens in Spain,

Caption 41, Soledad Ensaladilla de brócoli

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y allí estuve durante diez años;

And I was there for ten years,

Caption 23, Luis Guitarra Influencias musicales - Part 1

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According to the RAE, one definition of allá, which can also be translated as "there" or "over there," is "en aquel lugar o sus proximidades" (in that place or its vicinity), making the term a bit more vague. Let's see an example:


Sin embargo, uno de los ecosistemas más importantes de la zona está allá. En el mar.

However, one of the most important ecosystems of the area is over there. In the sea.

Caption 65, Instinto de conservación Parque Tayrona - Part 2

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Allá can also be used in lieu of allí to emphasize the distance of a particular place:


Y pues entré a hacer mi maestría allá en Moscú, de... de imagen.

And well, I went to do my master's degree there in Moscow in... in photography.

Caption 40, Bogotá Fotógrafo José Segundo Quinche Pérez

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Ahí, Allí and Allá: Overlap in Usage 

Although we have explored the primary definitions for the Spanish terms ahíallí and allá, note that if you scroll further down in the entry for ahí, the RAE actually lists allí and allá as synonyms! This is because, like the words for "here" in Spanish (aquí and acá), the use of the words for "there" varies vastly from region to region and person to person, leading many speakers to use these terms differently or interchangeably. Let's see a couple of examples that deviate from the parameters we have learned:


¡Oh, mira ese vestido allá

Oh, look at that dress over there!

Caption 23, Cleer y Carolina De compras

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ahí, no es como Madrid que sales cuando te da la gana, es que allí, no paras. 

And there, it's not like in Madrid where you go out when you feel like it, it's just that there, you never stop.

Captions 18-20, Arume Barcelona

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In the first example, since the dress that is spoken about is quite close to both the speaker and the listener, using our initial definitions, we might have expected her to choose ahí rather than allá.  And in the second, interestingly, the speaker refers to the exact same place, Barcelona, using both ahí and allí.


 Ahí, Allí and Allá: The Takeaway

To conclude today's lesson, let's concisely sum up what we have learned:


1. Generally speaking, ahí describes something relatively close to the speaker and/or listener. It is most typically translated as "there."


2. Allí usually describes something further away from both the speaker and listener. It is most typically translated as "there" or "over there."


3. Allá is similar to allíbut less specific, and can also be employed to emphasize distance. Its translations are "there" or "over there."


4. There is a great deal of overlap in the manner in which these words for "there" are used in spoken Spanish, which is often influenced more by the individual or region than any strict parameter of distance or grammatical rule.


That's all for this lesson. We hope that it has helped you to understand the differences and similarities among the three different ways to say "there" in Spanish, and don't forget to write us with your questions and comments


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