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. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

These are commonly misused when writing, and can be very confusing for someone that is learning Spanish. These three words have a very different meaning and they are used in a very different context.

How would you explain to a beginner what are the main differences and what would you advise to avoid misuse?

share|improve this question
up vote 10 down vote accepted

ahí: Used to indicate the location of something.

La pelota esta ahí.

ay: To express pain or exclamation.

Ay me duele mucho.

¡Ay qué bonito!

hay: From the verb haber.

Hay problemas muy difíciles.

share|improve this answer
nice, and what would you advise to avoid misuse? – isJustMe Nov 16 '11 at 17:23
It's worth noting that many people (at least in Mexico) write 'hay' when they mean 'ay'. It confused me for a while. – Flimzy Nov 16 '11 at 17:24
yeah, is misleading sometimes I even get confused to,I wonder why most of the people (at least in Mexico) can't get it right. – isJustMe Nov 16 '11 at 17:30
@Filmzy I'm from Mexico too. I agree that even for native speakers it is difficult and in some case is written wrong, in this cases the context helps to determine what was intended to say. – Alfredo Osorio Nov 16 '11 at 17:31
@Rafael.IT maybe memorizing this sentece will help you to avoid confusion: Ahí hay un hombre que dice ¡ay! – dusan Nov 17 '11 at 16:51

Your Answer


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.