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 are and provide some examples?


3 Answers 3


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.

  • 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.
    – user468
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 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
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 14:35
  • well, maybe just as people said there are minor differences but it is not important.
    – user468
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 14:38
  • This is very enlightening to me. I had a Mexican (teenage) friend explain the distinction to me once, but the account she provided was very different: ahí is to reference a place that can be seen, allí is for a place that cannot be seen, and allá is a Latin American synonym for allí. I suppose that was inaccurate, or I probably misunderstood her. Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 2:02

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.


Just a little addition to the existing good answers:

I believe that both allá and acá both originally were used in a similar way to the English thither and hither respectively (i.e. to there or to here), but this is not longer strictly required in modern Spanish grammar, as in modern English.

Currently, allá is typically used to mean over there, with a sense of remoteness beyond that of allí. It should be noted however that acá is used rather more rarely, and when it is, it still tends to retain its original meaning of hither.

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