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English:

How can I tell whether I should be using Dentro vs. Adentro? I've read that they both mean 'inside' and looked at some examples, but I still can't always figure out which one to use. Are there any good rules to learn the difference, or examples that illustrate this difference particularly well? Also, is the word 'en' sometimes used to mean 'inside' as well?


Spanish:

¿Como puedo saber si debería usar Dentro vs. Adentro? He leído que ambos significan 'inside' y visto algunos ejemplos, pero no siempre tengo claro cual usar. ¿Existen algunas buenas reglas para aprender la diferencia, o ejemplos que ilustren esta diferencia especialmente bien? Además, ¿la palabra 'en' también se usa a veces para decir 'inside'?

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Nice question!! –  Alfredo Osorio Dec 7 '11 at 2:27
    
Tambien vease un ejemplo given by Javi en mi pregunta –  Tomas Jan 5 '12 at 23:42

5 Answers 5

Both dentro and adentro mean "inside" but the latter is used with verbs of movement. For example:

  1. Nos fuimos adentro. —> (The verb "ir" means "to go"; movement);
  2. El perro está dentro del coche. —> (no movement involved).

You can see the official reference here for dentro and for adentro.

As it is said in the articles, in some parts of America, sometimes "adentro" is used when "dentro" should have been adopted.

"En" can also be used in the same way as "in" is used in English, so you can use "en" (but "dentro" emphasizes it more)

El perro está en el coche.

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Ah. Es similar a "dónde" y "adónde", ¿no? –  todofixthis Apr 25 '12 at 4:18
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@Phoenix Sí. Lo mismo pasa con "fuera" y "afuera". –  Javi Apr 25 '12 at 8:29

Both are adverbs of location and both can be translated as inside, the difference is that dentro is used to express in the interior, inside and adentro goes with verbs indicating movement and it is used to express towards the interior. Some examples:

Dentro de mi corazón (inside my heart).

Lo llevé hacia adentro (I took it inside).

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Is it safe to say it's the same as the difference between in/inside and into? –  Flimzy Dec 7 '11 at 2:12
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@Flimzy: I'd say yes at least in the cases I could think of, but I am not a native English speaker, so I wouldn't put my hand in the fire for that "yes". –  Gonzalo Medina Dec 7 '11 at 3:28
    
Can't you also say "Estoy aquí adentro"? –  jrdioko Dec 7 '11 at 17:29
    
@jrdioko: yes; adentro sometimes is also used as en la parte interior (in the interior), but this use is common in certain regions of Latin America. –  Gonzalo Medina Dec 7 '11 at 17:34

In addition to the excellent answers given let me point out that dentro can also be used to denote the end of a period of time as seen from present: llámame dentro de quince minutos. Which is roughly the same as llámame en quince minutos, while there is no such exception for adentro which is always location/movement-based.

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"Dentro" should only be used in the prepositional phrase (frase prepositiva) "dentro de":

La guitarra está dentro de su funda.
(The guitar is inside its case.)

On the other hand, "adentro" should only be used as a standalone adverb:

La guitarra está adentro.
(The guitar is inside.)

In short: "Dentro de <algo>" means "inside of <something>", while "adentro" means simply "inside".

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In addition to the other answers: dentro implies inside in relation to a specific place (stated after the preposition "de" or by context).

El niño está dentro de la casa.
Mi estuche está dentro de la sala.

At least in Chile, adentro de is very uncommon, this "dentro de"/"adentro de" comparison also shows it.

By the way, the rules for dentro/adentro can be used for fuera/afuera.

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