Today we are going to look at an interesting parallel between some phonetically similar sounding words that coincidently sound similar in both English and Spanish. The word that links both the English and Spanish is “there”. Let’s start by looking at the English.
In English the words “there”, “their” and “they’re” are phonetically extremely close. That is to say, they can sound the same, especially when said quickly. Of course, each has a very different meaning, but often people will confuse or misspell these words.
Now let’s see 4 different Spanish words that also sound very similar. Two of these words have the same meaning as their English counterpart: Allí
Allí means “there”. It can be considered the opposite of “aquí” (here). However, as we will soon discover, we have more than one word in Spanish to describe there.
In this case, it is used when describing things that are there, but not too close. So more in the spirit of being “over there”. Ahí
Ahí also means “there”, but used when we want to describe something as there
but not “way over there”. So, something that is within reach for instance.
Ahí and allí are not phonetically identical, but very close and you could be forgiven for hearing both as being the same.
Knowing when to use ahí or allí is simply a matter of distance. How far away there
is perceived will dictate which is the appropriate choice. Hay
We have already covered the use of “hay” in previous blog posts. It is actually a special case conjugation of the verb haber,
but in this context means either “there is” or “there are”.
Usually for Spanish, the form remains “hay” when used to qualify things both in the singular and the plural:
“Hay solo uno” (there is only one)
“Hay muchas cosas” (there are many things) Ay
Finally, we have the word “ay”, which is an interjection meaning “oh”.
“¡Ay! qué lástima” (Oh! what a shame)
Because the letter h is always silent in Spanish, “hay” and “ay” are phonetically identical. Conclusion | En conclusión
Knowing the difference between “ahí”, “allí”, “hay” and “ay” hopefully should be quite easy to remember, especially if we link this back to the English word “there”.
Remember: “ahí” and “allí” both mean “there” but we are also making a distinction between being “right there” and “over there”.