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What is the difference between allí and ahí? Is there any difference in pronunciation between the two? Are there any contexts where one is correct and one is wrong, or are they completely synonymous?


Español

¿Cuál es la diferencia entre allí y ahí? ¿Hay alguna diferencia de pronunciación entre las dos? ¿Hay algún contexto en el cual una de ellas es correcta y la otra no, o son completamente sinónimas?

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2  
... and don't forget allá –  leonbloy Jan 18 '12 at 17:57
    
@leonbloy: Well, one comparison at a time :) –  jrdioko Jan 18 '12 at 18:00
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Related: Any difference between aquí and acá –  hippietrail Jan 18 '12 at 18:32
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Related as well: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/1728/… –  Janoma Feb 6 '12 at 12:34
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6 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Right now (at least in Spain) they are not synonyms and the use of them differs in the distance of the place from the speaker.

  • Ahí = en ese lugar (in this place)
  • Allí = en aquel lugar (in that place)

So "ahí" is nearer to the speaker than allí. RAE says they can be synonims but that the use as synonyms is outdated.

The difficulty may be in knowing how far has to be the place to choose one or the other. I would say that it doesn't matter much but "ahí" is usually used with things you can watch directly, for example if you are in front of the White House you can say:

Ahí está la Casa Blanca (you can see it and say that while you point at it with your finger)

Allí está la Casa Blanca (you can see it, but you think it's far from you)

but for example if you're in Washington and you want to speak about New York then probably we would say:

Juan está en Nueva York. Allí está el Empire State, ¿no?

Anyway it's just a perception of how the user can consider the distance. The best example of its use you may find it in a sentence where both are used to mean that something is further than the other.

For example in Paris while being closer to the Louvre Museum than the Eiffel Tower you could say:

Mira ahí está el Museo del Louvre y allí la Torre Eiffel.

As for pronunciation, they are not pronounced in the same way at all. The "h" has not sound in "ahí" and the double l: "ll" is pronounced as in the word "callar". Have a look at this answer from this site where it's explained how to pronounce "ll".

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1  
All this is ok, but it's also subtle and a little artificial. And the difference varies (or vanishes) with regions and ages. In Argentina, both are practically synonims, only that 'ahí' is more informal and common. –  leonbloy Jan 18 '12 at 18:12
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@leonbloy In Spain this difference exists and none of both terms are more or less formal than the other. –  Juanillo Jan 18 '12 at 18:59
    
Ahí = en ese lugar (in this place) Did you mean este? or did you mean that? –  Flimzy May 30 '13 at 2:29
    
And I guess that allá is farther than allí ? –  Dan the Man Sep 9 '13 at 11:59
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Ahí = there Allí = yonder

I prefer to think of the aquí/acáahíallí/allá difference as being the same as 1st / 2nd / 3rd person. Aquí/acá is near me, ahí is near you, and allí/allá is near neither of us.

user983248 has a very good description of the five level distinction, although there is a sixth one, acullá, which is even farther away than allá. Of further note, allá and acá admit comparisons, whereas allí and aquí do not.

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According to the Diccionario General de la Lengua Española Vox (the one that comes with OS X Mountain Lion):

  • Allí is used when the thing being referred to is (but not too much) far from both the speaker and the listener, e.g. "vivo allí; ¿ves aquella polvareda que se levanta allí?; he dejado el libro allí encima."
  • Ahí is used when the thing being referred to is far from the speaker but close to the listener, e.g. "quédate ahí y no te muevas; desde ahí no lo podrás ver."

This distinction of speaker and listener seems to be largely overlooked in similar questions, and is correctly pointed out is this other answer too.

Side note: I'm a native Brazilian Portuguese speaker and this is consistent with our use of the corresponding ali and .

I'm not sure if their pronunciation in Spanish is distinguishable when used with yeísmo though.

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I'm not entirely sure if I'm right. But my spanish 3 teacher told me that they both mean "there" But ahí is extremely informal. The same with acá. Acá and aquí both mean "here" but acá is much more informal. I hope that helps

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Depending on the region, "ahí" is between "aquí" and "allí", read the accepted answer. –  JoulSauron Sep 16 '12 at 11:50
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In my opinion, "allí" and "ahí" are the same word all together. If you sound both of them out, they sound no different than the other. They both even have the same number of syllables.

allí = a-yi
ahí = a-i

It shouldn't matter which variant you use for "there" It is only when you assimilate a velar consonant in the middle of it that it becomes "here". Similar to the difference in there and here. In English, we add a letter to say.. "there"

Adding a velar consonant.. such as a letter than sounds like /k/ /g/ or /x/ <== "H" sound, converts the word. If you were to actually pronounce the h in "ahí" as if it were "ají" You would then have a a word that sounded like "here".

The same goes for "aguí" It sounds no different than "aquí" because of the velar consonant.

Now, what really determines the distance, is that very last syllable's vowel. In the above examples, you'll notice that they all end in a /i/ "ee" sound, which is a closed vowel. If you drop the /i/ and add an /a/... an open vowel, then you have flipped the word on its head and it means something different.

allí => allá Changing the context from "There!" to "Over there!"
aquí => acá Changing the context from "Here!" to "Over here!".. or "Right here!"

The main idea here is that the closed vowel indicates you are dictating to someone near year. It is also used in diminutives, but that's another story altogether.

When you stress that closed vowel, /i/, the sound doesn't travel as far as if you were to use an open vowel... /a/

It's more or less the difference between squealing and squalling.

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Not really correct

> Ahí = en ese lugar (in this place) 
> Allí = en aquel lugar (in that place)

The correct thing is:

  • On this place => En este lugar => Aquí => Here
  • In that place => En ese lugar => Allí => There
  • Aquí estoy => Here I'm
  • Allí estaba => There I was

Allí and/y Ahí are quite the same thing but different from Aquí

If you whant to put all of them in order ox proximity you would place them as follow:

  • Aquí -> Been the closest to you
  • Acá -> Cose to you but can be used to define a surrounding area (acá en casa | here in home)
  • Ahí -> A bit far but close to you
  • Allí -> Far but no so much
  • Allá -> Far

I hope that helps

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Are you saying ahí and aquí are synonyms? –  jrdioko May 14 '12 at 16:24
    
@jrdioko both refer to a direction/place/location the true difference is the distance as you can see on the downvoted answer. The selected answer is complete wrong. Ahí and Allí can be used as the same thing but differ from Aquí (the distance involved differ). –  user983248 May 15 '12 at 17:55
    
I'm not sure I understand, since what you list as "The correct thing" doesn't even mention ahí, which is what the question is asking about. –  jrdioko May 15 '12 at 17:57
    
@jrdioko Answer was edited to reflect the idea. –  user983248 May 15 '12 at 17:59
    
@jrdioko On English you have here and there, so it is important to cover all possibilities before a second question get asked about the difference between Aquí, Ahí and Allí , I found that the answer will cover all options not only the specific question. –  user983248 May 15 '12 at 18:04
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