Column 1                      Column 2

dentro / fuera          |     adentro / afuera
encima / debajo         |     arriba / abajo
delante / detrás        |     adelante / atrás

In Spanish there are sometimes two columns of words to choose from when talking about location.

For example:

La perra esta adentro.
La perra está dentro de la casa.

However, there are other words that mean the same as words from column 1 and column 2. The problem is that I don´t know if I should use them to substitute a word from column 1 or column 2.

So, in sentences such as:

Estoy debajo del árbol.

Estoy abajo.

Does "bajo" substitute "debajo" or "abajo"?

and in sentences such as:

Su comida fue encima de la mesa.

Su madre la esperaba arriba.

Does "sobre / en" substitute "encima" or "arriba"?

2 Answers 2


You can say:

  • Estoy bajo el árbol.

"bajo" is a preposition, not an adverb.

The sentence:

  • Su comida fue encima de la mesa.

is, if not ungrammatical, very weird. The only possible interpretation would be: His/her/Their meal took place on the table.

Perhaps you meant to say:

  • Su comida estaba encima de la mesa.

which is equivalent to:

  • Su comida estaba sobre la mesa.

"sobre" is a preposition and needs an object after it, so you CANNOT say:

*Su madre lo esperaba sobre.


Note that "adentro", "afuera", ... are originally contractions of "a dentro", "a fuera", etc. in other words, denote direction or movement, as in "voy a dentro". In general, when the verb is static (e.g. estar) you use the adverb without the "a", and if the verb indicates motion (ir) you use the adverb with the initial "a".

Estoy dentro, voy adentro
Se sienta delante, va adelante.

Having said this however, you will note that many native speakers do not make any difference between the two.

One exception to this rule is the adverb "arriba", which does not derive from "a" + adverb, but from Latin "ad ripam" (next to the border) and does not follow the above rule. It is correct to say "está arriba". It is also correct to say "está abajo", but I don't know the reason of this exception.

  • 1
    If we use dentro with static verbs and adentro with verbs of motion then that means I can say "Estoy dentro." "voy adentro de la casa." but this contradicts the third answer of this link which is the way i normally use it. spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/798/… Which states "Dentro" should only be used in the prepositional phrase(frase prepositiva) "dentro de". "La guitarra está dentro de su funda." On the other hand, "adentro" should only be used as a standalone adverb. "La guitarra está adentro."
    – Simple
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 14:18

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