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Allí, allá, arriba, and adelante

Why does Spanish have three different words that mean “there”? Let’s explore a bunch of Spanish adverbs that reference location, including allí, allá, arriba, adelante, and atrás.

Full Podcast Episode



Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Today we’re going to keep practicing the verb Deber, and as we do, we’ll also learn some new adverbs that describe where something or someone is, including words for “outside”, “nearby”, and “far away”.

Let’s start by talking about how to say “there” in Spanish. I already hinted at this back in episode 49, but the word ahí isn’t actually the only way to say “there” in Spanish. In fact, the word “there” can be translated two other ways: First, there’s allí, which is like ahí but replaces the H with two Ls, allí. Then there’s also allá, spelled a-l-l-a, with an accent over the second A.

First of all, let’s compare ahí with allí. So the word ahí, the one we already know, tends to be used specifically when you’re talking about the place that the person you’re talking to is. But the word allí tends to refer to a third location. For example, let’s say that I’m talking on the phone with you, and you’re at your house, and I’m at my house, and we’re talking about where to meet up. If I say “let’s meet there”, using the word ahí, I’m probably talking about your house. But if I’m referring to a third location, like a park or a restaurant, I’m more likely to use allí.

Meanwhile, the word allá is used in more idiomatic ways, particularly when you’re pointing off into the distance, or to a vague location somewhere. It almost means something like “yonder”. It’s also used in an interesting idiom, para allá, which means “over there” in a vague sense. For example:

We’re going to do it over there(vague).

Vamos a hacerlo para allá.

But you’ll also see “over there” translated as por allí, when you’re indicating a more specific place. For example:

What we want is over there(precise).

Lo que queremos está por allí.

Another common idiom is de aquí para allá, meaning roughly “from here to there”; you use this when you’re talking about running around. For example:

We went from here to there all day.

Fuimos de aquí para allá todo el día.

Let’s practice ahí, allí, allá, and these new idioms.

The man is around there in some place.

El hombre está por allá en algún lugar.

You are there and I am here, but the things are there.

Tú estás ahí y yo estoy aquí, pero las cosas están allí.

What you want is not there, it’s over there(precise).

Lo que quieres no está ahí, está por allí.

They had to(Deber preterite) go from here to there.

Debieron ir de aquí para allá.

(Deber preterite)I had to go there(vague). 

Debí ir allá.

We have to go over there(vague) because what you want isn’t there(with you).

Tenemos que ir para allá porque lo que quieres no está ahí.

Now while we’re talking about the words for “there”, let’s also revisit how to say “here” in Spanish. Most of the Spanish-speaking world uses the word aquí, but in some regions you’ll actually see an alternative word used, the word acá, spelled a-c-a with an accent mark on the final A. For example:

We’re all here.

Todos estamos acá.

Since this is a region-specific term, we won’t use acá a whole lot, except in the idiom para acá, which is pretty broadly used to mean “over here” or “in this direction”. For example:

Come over here!

¡Ven para acá!

Now let’s learn a few adverbs that can be used to describe where something is in relation to something else. A very common one is abajo, which means “down” or “below”. As you can see, it’s related to the word bajo, which means “under”, but remember that bajo is a preposition, so it has to be right before a noun. Meanwhile the word abajo is an adverb, so it can be used all by itself, pretty much anywhere in a sentence. For example, compare these two sentences:

The kid is under the table.

El niño está bajo la mesa.

The kid is below.

El niño está abajo.

This word can also mean “downstairs”, and it can also be used to refer to moving “downwards”. Here are a couple of more examples of the word:

We(f) were going down, toward the house.

Nosotras estábamos yendo abajo, hacia la casa.

The family is downstairs, but I can talk to them.

La familia está abajo, pero puedo hablar con ellos.

And then the word afuera means “outside” or “outdoors”. It’s similar to abajo, because it can either refer to just being somewhere or the action of moving out. Here are a couple of examples:

Outside many cars were passing.

Afuera pasaban muchos autos.

Do you want to go outside?

¿Quieres ir afuera?

Let’s practice para acá, abajo, and afuera.

In this first case, to say “down there”, you’ll use ahí abajo, literally “there down”, which is more idiomatic in Spanish.

You should see it, it’s down there.

Deberías verlo, está ahí abajo.

Can you come over here? Maybe I must do it with you.

¿Puedes venir para acá? Quizás deba hacerlo contigo.

You should be outside, it will be good for you.

Deberías estar afuera, será bueno para ti.

The things are outside because there were already many things downstairs.

Las cosas están afuera porque ya había muchas cosas abajo. 

The kids must go downstairs and later come over here.

Los niños deben ir abajo y después venir para acá.

Our next word is atrás, which means something like “back” or “backwards”. And to make it easier to use this adverb, we’re actually going to learn a new noun, the word paso, which means “step”. This word works a lot like vuelta, along with the verb Dar, because in Spanish, instead of “taking” a step, you “give” a step. So here’s an example:

I took a step backwards.

Di un paso atrás.

But actually, atrás is more typically used in the middle of an idiomatic phrase. The phrase hacia atrás means “backwards”, referring to the act of moving backwards or looking backwards. For example:

We turned back.

Dimos una vuelta hacia atrás.

She took a few steps back.

Dio unos pasos hacia atrás.

Another interesting thing about this word is that it often gets the preposition de after it to refer to a position “behind” something, namely a noun that will go right after de. For example:

She did it behind the house.

Lo hizo atrás de la casa.

Let’s practice using atrás, hacia atrás, and atrás de.

He must take a step back.

Debe dar un paso hacia atrás.

I can’t see that if I’m behind.

No puedo ver eso si estoy atrás.

It shouldn’t be there(where you are), it should be behind that thing.

No debería estar ahí, debería estar atrás de esa cosa.

We should tell her to go backwards.

Deberíamos decirle que vaya hacia atrás.

I had to(Deber imperfect) put it behind the house.

Debía ponerlo atrás de la casa.

His house is behind and that’s why I must go.

Su casa está atrás y por eso debo ir.

Our next word is a really odd one: It’s the word fuera. Yes, it’s spelled exactly like the past tense subjunctive of Ser or Ir. But this word can also mean “out” or “outside”, very much like the word afuera.

The difference between fuera and afuera is that you are more likely to use this one, fuera, to specify what you’re outside of. And when you do, you’ll put the preposition de after it, kind of like putting de after atrás. For example:

They’re outside the house.

Están fuera de la casa.

In this way, although fuera is technically an adverb, it’s almost behaving like a preposition, because when you combine it with de, you always use it right before a noun.

There are actually a lot of adverbs that behave this way, and we’re going to learn a few more. One is adelante, which means “in front”. It can be used by itself; for example:

Yes, they’re here, in front.

Sí, ellas están aquí, adelante.

But very often, you’ll specify what they’re in front of. For example:

Yes, they’re here, in front of the house.

Sí, ellas están aquí, adelante de la casa.

Another word that works like this is dentro, which means “inside”. Compare these two examples:

My father is inside.

Mi padre está dentro.

My father is inside the house.

Mi padre está dentro de la casa.

Let’s practice fuera, adelante, and dentro.

What I want is inside the house, maybe I must go there.

Lo que quiero está dentro de la casa, quizás deba ir ahí.

The kids are inside, you had(Deber preterite) to see them.

Los niños estaban dentro, debiste verlos.

Don’t you see it? It’s there in front, outside the house.

¿No lo ves? Está ahí adelante, fuera de la casa.

He is outside the place and that’s why she had(Deber preterite) to go with him.

Él está fuera del lugar y por eso ella debió ir con él.

Do you know if the girl is in front of everything?

¿Sabes si la chica está adelante de todo?

My friend will have(Deber) to be in front because she doesn’t see well.

Mi amiga deberá estar adelante porque no ve bien.

She told me that it was in front of the table and that I was able to have it.

Me dijo que estaba adelante de la mesa y que podía tenerlo.

The things that they want are inside that place.

Las cosas que ellos quieren están dentro de ese lugar.

They had(Deber imperfect) to be inside because it wasn’t safe outside.

Debían estar dentro porque no era seguro afuera.

We have just three more adverbs to learn, and these are very similar to dentro and adelante— they can be used either with or without a de after them.

First of all, we have the word cerca, which means “near”, and then we have lejos, which means “far”. If you use either one by itself, you’re just saying “nearby” or “far away”, without specifying what they’re near to or far away from. Here is an example:

Yes, they’re nearby. Our other friend is far away.

Sí, están cerca. Nuestro otro amigo está lejos.

But then we can use cerca de to specify what something is near to, or lejos de to indicate what something is far from. Here are some examples:

They’re near that place.

Están cerca de ese lugar.

No, it’s too far from my house.

No, está demasiado lejos de mi casa.

Our last word is arriba, which means “up” or “upwards”. This word is basically the opposite of abajo; it can indicate moving upwards, or it can mean “upstairs”. Here are some examples:

The kid is upstairs.

El niño está arriba.

We were going up toward the house.

Estábamos yendo arriba, hacia la casa.

But unlike the word abajo, the word arriba can also be followed by de to mean something like “on top of” or “upon”. For example:

The little girl is on top of the house.

La niña está arriba de la casa.

Now of course, in such contexts, the phrase arriba de ends up meaning essentially the exact same thing as sobre. For today’s quizzing, when we say “on top of”, you can expect arriba de.

Let’s practice cerca, arriba, and lejos.

Is the place nearby? // No, it's far away from home.

¿El lugar está cerca? // No, está muy lejos de casa.

I must go with them because they are near my house.

Debo ir con ellos porque están cerca de mi casa.

You had(Deber imperfect) to go with her, now she’s far away from you.

Debías ir con ella, ahora está muy lejos de ti.

I know it’s far, but I don’t know if upstairs or downstairs.

Sé que está lejos, pero no sé si arriba o abajo.

We should have(Deber imperfect) gone to a place close to home, but we went to one far away.

Debíamos ir a un lugar cerca de casa, pero fuimos a uno lejos.

It’s on top of the house, near that.

Está arriba de la casa, cerca de eso.

We had(Deber preterite) to go upstairs before and now you must do it.

Debimos ir arriba antes y ahora tú debes hacerlo.

It might be that we must go on top of those houses.

Puede que debamos ir arriba de esas casas.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/108. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

I should be there because they were talking about me.

Yo debería estar ahí porque estaban hablando de mí.

I don’t know if it’s close, but you must leave to be with them.

No sé si está cerca, pero debes irte para estar con ellos.

I talk outside home because I know something is happening with her.

Hablo fuera de casa porque sé que pasa algo con ella.

We have to talk, come over here.

Tenemos que hablar, ven para acá.

In the past we were far away from you all.

En el pasado estábamos lejos de ustedes.

She only talks about having(deber) to do that.

Solo habla sobre deber hacer eso.

I must be alone upstairs because I wasn’t able to be outside with them.

Debo estar solo arriba porque no podía estar afuera con ellos.

You(formal) should be there(vague), inside the house.

Usted debería estar allá, dentro de la casa.

He told us what happened behind the place.

Nos dijo lo que pasó atrás del lugar.

He talks and it might be that you must come over here.

Él habla y puede que debas venir para acá.

I have not had to(Deber participle) do it, it’s wrong.

No he debido hacerlo, está mal.

They should have(Deber preterite) said something to me.

Me debieron decir algo.

I know something is going to happen downstairs.

Sé que algo va a pasar abajo. 

Come in! But you have to be in front.

¡Pasa! Pero tienes que estar adelante.

We must go over there and later backwards.

Debemos ir para allá y luego hacia atrás.

You don’t talk much with her, but you should do it.

No hablas mucho con ella pero deberías hacerlo.

He must go there(specific) if he wants to be with his friend.

Debe ir allí si quiere estar con su amigo.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/108.

In tomorrow’s episode, we’re going to learn some nouns related to location, including the words for “city”, “town”, “country”, and “world”.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Ximena Lama-Rondón. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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