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?

  • and there is also "allí"... Apr 3, 2018 at 10:42
  • @RadovanGarabík - This one is not as easily confused, though. The pronunciation is more distinctively different. Apr 27, 2018 at 4:39

1 Answer 1


ahí: Used to indicate the location of something.

La pelota está ahí.

ay: To express pain or exclamation.

Ay, me duele mucho.

¡Ay, qué bonito!

hay: From the verb "haber".

Hay problemas muy difíciles.

  • nice, and what would you advise to avoid misuse?
    – isJustMe
    Nov 16, 2011 at 17:23
  • 3
    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, 2011 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, 2011 at 17:30
  • 6
    @Rafael.IT maybe memorizing this sentece will help you to avoid confusion: Ahí hay un hombre que dice ¡ay!
    – dusan
    Nov 17, 2011 at 16:51
  • 2
    @Flimzy: As a Mexican I can say that I have the theory that people do not write this correctly because of one of three reasons: lack of education, laziness or, they just do not care about writing it properly. IMHO. May 30, 2012 at 14:00

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