Take the 2-minute tour ×
Spanish Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Spanish language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am confused with the uses of "ahí", "allí" and "allá".
It seems they are used according to different situations.
Could you please tell me what are the differences and provide some examples?
Thanks!

share|improve this question
1  
closely related: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/1474/… –  Javi Feb 6 '12 at 11:30
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As far as I know, there are no strong differences between those words, at least in spoken language. There might be tiny differences according to the dictionary, but here are a few examples of their use, at least uses I can think of:

  • Ahí and allí are basically the same, but ahí seems to be less used than allí (according to RAE, though I disagree). Both indicate a physical place.

    Ahí está Juan.

    El accidente ocurrió allí.

  • Por ahí is used to indicate a place that is close by, or a place that is undetermined altogether.

    Voy a caminar por ahí is something like "I'm going for a walk around".

    Por ahí se cuenta que... means "It is said (around) that...", or "It is being said here and there that...", implying that a rumor is being spread, but without compromising with an actual location where this might've happened.

  • On the other hand, allí indicates time, but ahí does not. That is the one difference between both words. I must say, however, that I have not heard that use much here in Chile. It might be common in other countries.

    Allí fue el trabajo is the example in the dictionary. It means something like the job was back then, meaning a past time that should be clear from the context (the rest of the conversation).

  • Allá indicates some place that could be far from you and a bit undetermined at the same time.

    Allá en Rusia: "there in Russia".

    Allá lejos: "there, far away". Basically, you wouldn't say allí here, because, roughly speaking, you would use allí only when you refer to a place that you can point with your finger (allí en la colina: "there, over the hill").

  • Allá also indicates time, but a remote past only.

    Allá en tiempo del Imperio Romano.

    Allá en la prehistoria.

  • Finally, there are a couple of uses of allá that do not apply to allí and ahí:

    El más allá means "the underworld", in the sense of "the world beyond", not necessarily with a connotation of punishment (as in "hell"). When people die they go to the "más allá", and this could be heaven, hell or some other place or reality depending of one's beliefs.

    Allá tú means "have it your own way". For example, if two people are discussing a plan of action and one of them is absolutely determined to proceed in a specific manner, the other one might get tired of arguing and say allá tú, as in "I give up, have it your own way". Same with allá él, allá ella, allá ellos, allá ustedes/vosotros and allá usted.

share|improve this answer
    
thanks for your detailed answer. I've seen that both "allí" y "allá" can refer to a distant specific place. But I just heard people say that sometimes only specific one could be used. I am still confused. –  Cadenza Feb 6 '12 at 14:22
    
@Cadenza: Well, as for when certain words can or can't be used, that's not very precise, for a language evolves all the time according to how people use its words. Personally, I would not use allí to refer to a very distant place, and I think it is incorrect to do so, but one thing is the meaning and use intended by the dictionary and the other is the one you find in daily usage. Maybe allí is used to refer to distant places by other people, but that doesn't make it correct. –  Janoma Feb 6 '12 at 14:35
    
well, maybe just as people said there are minor differences but it is not important. –  Cadenza Feb 6 '12 at 14:38
add comment

This can be explained with the three grades of demonstratives and of verbal persons:

  1. Primera persona: Esta cosa aquí está cerca de mí.

  2. Segunda persona: Esa cosa ahí está cerca de ti.

  3. Tercera persona: Aquella cosa allí está cerca de él (o de otra persona; o sea, ni de ti ni de mí).

The acá and allá versions are less precise. You might in English say over here or around there. Por acá is around here, por allá is over there somewhere. There is no *ahá version for euphonious reasons; people use por ahí to mean out there somewhere, as though it were the version of the middle (2ª persona) degree.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.