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Ya vs ahora

How do you say “now” in Spanish? Today we’ll explore a bunch of Spanish adverbs, including the words “ahora” and “ya”, the two different ways you can say “now”. We’ll also talk about some of the many ways “ya” can be translated into English.

Full Podcast Episode


Now, finally, we get to say “now” in Spanish.

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 talk a lot about adverbs.

We’ve already learned no, the most common adverb in Spanish, and we’ve practiced using it when it means “not”. This word can also mean simply “no” all by itself, for example in answer to a yes-no question. For example, let’s say I’m asking you if some people are present. The following sentence answers the question using both versions of no:

No, ellas no están.

This means “no, they are not present.”

Here’s how you would say the opposite:

Sí, ellas están.

The word means yes — this sounds exactly like the word si that we’ve learned previously, which means “if”, but this one is spelled with an accent mark over the letter I.

Now, this word doesn’t JUST mean “yes”; it can also be used in the middle of positive statements, in the exact same way that we’ve been using no to mean “not”.

Here’s an example of how. We can take the sentence ellas no están, and we can change it to ellas sí están.

Now, why would you do that? In English we don’t randomly put the word “yes” in the middle of a sentence, like “they yes are present”. But in Spanish, this is quite natural. Ellas no están, ellas sí están. These two words are interchangeable.

Specifically, what’s happening here is that the word is thrown in to affirm a sentence, in the same way that the word no is thrown in to negate a sentence. This is actually something that we do in English as well, we just don’t realize it because we do it in a subtle way.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that you’re in a disagreement with someone over whether or not someone has something. You tell me “he doesn’t have that”, él no has eso. But if you’re arguing the opposite, you might emphasize that he DOES have it: “He DOES have that.” The word “does” there is unnecessary; you could just say “he has that”. But you’re using the extra word “does” for emphasis.

And as you might remember, Spanish speakers never use “does” or “do” before another verb; remember that “d is for disappear”. So instead of doing that, if you want to emphasize something like this in Spanish, you’ll use .

So let’s try this. Él no has eso versus Él sí has eso. One is negation, one is affirmation. And as you can see, the words no and are used exactly the same way, at the same spot in the sentence. We just exchanged one for the other.

Here’s another example:: “You don’t know it?” or ¿Tú no lo know? Now we can switch it around: “You DO know it?” is ¿Tú sí lo know?

Let’s practice some examples of this. In each case, you’ll use either no to negate a sentence or to emphasize that a sentence is true.

She IS doing us a favor.

Ella sí nos está haciendo un favor.

You ARE the one(f) that was here that day!

¡Tú sí eres la que estuvo aquí ese día!

We(m) aren’t present, but they(m) ARE present.

Nosotros no estamos, pero ellos sí están.

One way to think about the word , when used like this, is as the word “indeed”. It may be a bit antiquated to say “she is indeed doing us a favor”, but some students find this translation helpful.

Our next word is muy, spelled M-U-Y, which means “very”, pretty much the same way that “very” is used in English. This adverb is ALWAYS used before an adjective or another adverb.

Also note that English speakers have a tendency to mispronounce this word; in English, we have a lot of words that are pronounced with an “oy” sound, such as “boy”, “toy”, and “joy”, but this word is not pronounced “moy”, it’s muy. Think of mooing like a cow, and you’ll pronounce it correctly: muy.

And again just like in English, in Spanish you can’t really use the word “very” by itself. Instead, you put a descriptor right after it; something can be “very tall”, “very strange”, “very nice”, and so on. So for example, to say “You are being very good”, you would say estás siendo muy bueno.

Estás siendo muy bueno.

See if you can predict how to say “we are very well.”

Estamos muy bien.

Actually, muy bien, or “very well”, is actually one of the most common two-word combinations in Spanish. So be prepared to hear and use muy bien all the time.

The reason that muy always has to have another word after it is because it falls into a particular category of words, which I call “adverbs of degree”. It’s very easy to replace the word “very” in English with a bunch of other degrees: Instead of “He’s very tall”, we can say “he’s extremely tall” (which would be stronger), or “he’s kind of tall” (which would be weaker), or “he’s barely tall” (which would be very weak). These are all different strengths, or “degrees”, of being tall.

We have another degree modifier to learn, the word más, which means “more”. This is spelled M-A-S, with an accent mark over the letter A. And you can use this in pretty much the same way that the English word “more” is used… and even more! Here’s why.

First of all, we can take our sentence “he is very tall” and change it to “he is more tall”. We just replace muy with más.

Now, this sounds strange in English, because we prefer to use the word “taller” rather than “more tall”. But in Spanish, you usually just use más for almost any comparison. So instead of “he is taller than her”, you would say “he is more tall than her.”

Él es más tall que ella.

Él es más alto que ella.

Another way you can use this word is as an adjective, right before a noun, to refer to more of something. For example,

I have done more things.

He hecho más cosas.

To get nerdy for a second, in this case we’re departing from our adverb conversation because más is technically being used as an adjective, not an adverb. That’s what happens when it modifies a noun rather than an adjective or adverb. So in this sentence template, he hecho más cosas, you couldn’t replace más with muy, because an adverb wouldn’t work here. But you could replace it with another adjective, such as buenas: He hecho buenas cosas.

Another way that más can be used differently from muy is as an adverb that’s used all by itself in a sentence, to refer to how much something is being done. For example, if I have been doing something and I want to keep doing it, I might say “I want to do more.”

I want hacer más.

Quiero hacer más.

So for example, how would you say:

She is doing it more.

Ella lo está haciendo más.

There’s yet another way we can use más: Sometimes it’s translated into English as “else”. This is very easy to do by putting it after algo or alguien: “something else” is algo más, literally “something more”, and “someone else” is alguien más, literally “someone more”. You can also say nadie más to mean “nobody else” or nada más to mean “nothing else”.

Let’s practice all our uses of más and muy with a few sentence examples.

We HAVE done more.

Nosotros sí hemos hecho más.

They(f) are happier than we(f).

Ellas están más happy que nosotras.

Ellas están más felices que nosotras.

Someone else is at that house.

Alguien más está en esa casa.

She wanted more of that thing.

Ella wanted más de esa cosa.

Ella quería más de esa cosa.

Our last two words today are adverbs that relate to time. But using these adverbs correctly involves a bit of nuance.

In English, the most common time adverb is “now”. It may seem like a simple word, but there are actually two ways to translate it into Spanish.

A very simple way to translate “now” is ahora, spelled a-h-o-r-a, with the H silent: ahora. This word is a very straightforward way to emphasize the present moment, meaning “now” or “right now”. For example, “Are they here right now?” might be: ¿Están aquí ahora?

¿Están aquí ahora?

But in English, when you say “are they here now?”, you might be saying one of two things. You might be asking about the general present moment, almost like asking “are they currently here?” But you also might be asking if they have just arrived, almost like asking “are they here yet?” In that case, you’re more likely to use the most common time adverb in Spanish, which is ya.

The word ya can mean “now”, but when it does, it’s in a very specific sense: It tends to indicate that something has recently changed. So here’s an example: “Now they’re here!” ¡Ya están aquí!

¡Ya están aquí!

So what ya indicates here is that something is different. “NOW they’re here!”

Now here’s a similar example but with an opposite meaning: Ya no están aquí. This could be translated as “Now they’re not here.” But in English we’d be more likely to say something like “they’re not here anymore.” Once again, the indication is that something recently changed.

If you instead say ahora no están aquí, the emphasis is simply on the fact that they’re not here right now. Maybe we’re expecting them later, maybe they were here earlier, but that’s not important. All that matters for ahora is the present moment. But the word ya, on the other hand, points at the present moment as contrasted with anything right before it.

Here’s another example of using ya to emphasize that something has changed.

She’s not at home anymore.

Ella ya no está en casa.

Let’s look at how this sentence is structured in Spanish. Whenever you encounter the word “anymore”, this is pretty straightforwardly going to use ya, but specifically, it’s going to use ya right before no, toward the beginning of the sentence. (You don’t normally use it at the end of the sentence like we do in English.) Try it yourself with this example:

But now you’re here.

Pero ya estás aquí.

How about this one:

We’re not doing it anymore.

Ya no lo estamos haciendo.

Note that if there’s a named subject, the word ya will go after the subject but before the verb, just like the word no. For example:

The girls aren’t here anymore.

Las chicas ya no están aquí.

Now as a side note, sometimes Spanish resources teach that ya means “already”. And yes, most of the time that “already” is used in English, you’ll translate it as the word ya in Spanish. But the fact is that ya is used in many, many other ways, and “already” accounts for a very small fraction of the uses of the word. Trying to oversimplify that ya and “already” mean the same thing can often lead to miscommunications. For example, the English word “already” almost always emphasizes that something has happened earlier than expected. The Spanish word ya can mean that, but rarely. So there’s really no simple way to translate these words between languages.

In summary, it’s helpful to think of ya as meaning “anymore”, or as a specific moment in time, the present, with the subtlety that something has changed recently. But there are also a lot of specific nuances for how to use this word, including many idioms and context-specific situations where you should or shouldn’t use it. Meanwhile, the word ahora means “now”, as in “right now”, emphasizing the current state of things, whether or not something has changed.

Let’s practice with a few more examples:

All of us are here now.

Todos estamos aquí ahora.

He’s not my friend anymore.

Él ya no es mi amigo.

They(f) were friends, but they’re not anymore.

Eran amigas, pero ya no lo son.

We’re not doing it right now.

No lo estamos haciendo ahora.

Now let’s use today’s final quiz to get a lot more practice with , muy, más, ya, and ahora.

Someone was indeed making it.

Alguien sí lo estaba haciendo.

He wasn’t here, but now everyone is here.

Él no estaba aquí, pero todos ya están aquí.

They weren’t OK, but now everything is OK.

No estaban bien, pero todo ya está bien.

Yes, I told you that this was a problem.

Sí, te I told que esto era a problem.

Sí, te dije que esto era un problema.

It isn’t very good anymore.

Ya no es muy bueno.

No, they(m) are more tall than you.

No, ellos son más tall que tú.

No, ellos son más altos que tú.

They want to do something else.

They want hacer algo más.

Quieren hacer algo más.

No, right now we haven’t done it.

No, ahora no lo hemos hecho.

He DOES want to do something else.

Él sí wants hacer algo más.

Él sí quiere hacer algo más.

Now she is very smart.

Ahora es muy smart.

Ahora es muy inteligente.


Right now he says he doesn’t know us.

Ahora he says que no nos he knows.

Ahora dice que no nos conoce.

You can’t do anything, he is very mean.

No you can hacer nada, él es muy mean.

No puedes hacer nada, él es muy malo.

Nobody asked me if I wanted to do something else.

Nadie me asked si I wanted hacer algo más.

Nadie me preguntó si quería hacer algo más.

Yes, you can tell him that.

Sí, le you can tell eso.

Sí, le puedes decir eso.

They DO have to know more.

Ellos sí have to know más.

Ellos sí tienen que saber más.

They did us a favor and I did them a favor.

Nos they did un favor y yo les did un favor.

Nos hicieron un favor y yo les hice un favor.

For more practice with all of this, use the online flashcards and other materials at LCSPodcast.com/39.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Ximena Lama-Rondón. Our music was provided 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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