Episode 55: Acá vs. Aquí, Los Adverbios Demostrativos

Do you have trouble remembering which adverb of place (or rather, adverbios demostrativos) to use in Spanish for saying where something is? Is the cat aquí, ahí, or allí? Or maybe it's acá? If so, then this episode is for you!

Adverbs of Place (Adverbios Demostrativos de Lugar)

These words, such as "here" (aquí), "there" (ahí), or "over there" (allí) can be used as adverbs or pronouns and describe the location of an object, person, or place. In general, you use each word based on how far from you the object, person, or place is. We'll get into that as we cover each word later on.


Now, there are some variations that you might here, such as acá instead of aquí or allá instead of allí. Most of the time, they are interchangeable and the only way to know which one should be used is based on local custom. For instance, in Spain they almost always use aquí, but in Latin America you can find the rules reversed or where they're both used the same, it just depends on the country.


In researching this episode, I realized that the differences between all of these words can get a bit murky. So keep in mind that you'll want to ask a local from your target region to make sure you blend in with local customs. For example, are you wanting to speak Spanish in Spain or Argentina? Are the majority of your Spanish-speaking friends from Mexico or Puerto Rico?


One other thing to note: there is an important difference between the verb haber, which means "there is", and these adverbs of place. For example, if you say "Hay dos gatos en la calle.", you are saying "There are/there exist two cats in the street." But if you say, "Dos gatos están allá.", you are saying "Two cats are (located) over there." So haber is a verb of existence, if you will, and the adverbs of place are more for saying where something is specifically located. Obviously, there are also a lot of other ways that haber is used, but that's for a different episode.


Let's go ahead and talk about the meanings and usage of each word. I've tried to combine all of the things I found in my research, but because it can get a bit tricky (people seem to have differing opinions), I've also heavily relied on the dictionary by the Real Academia Española, or the RAE, and WordReference.com.


Aquí and Acá

Meaning: Here.

For aquí, the RAE says the word means, "En este lugar," whereas acá means "en este lugar o cerca de él." In other words, acá has a slightly different connotation, that of "in this place or near it", but in everyday usage this hardly makes a difference.


Example Sentences:

  • Nosotros vivimos aquí/acá. We live here.

  • Vine aquí/acá una vez. I came here once.

  • Vinieron aquí/acá desde Irlanda. They came here from Ireland.

Here are some example sentences of using them as nouns:

  • Los ciclistas pasan por aquí/acá. The cyclists pass through here.

  • Aquí/Acá tengo los libros. I have the books here.

There are specific instances, though, where you only use either aquí or acá.

You use aquí to refer to something you just said or as a synonym for ahora (but it needs to have a preposition).

  • Mi novio llega tarde una vez más y aquí está el problema. My boyfriend is late once again and here is the problem.

  • De aquí a cinco días, estaremos en París. Five days from now, we will be in Paris.

It also means, "at that moment", if you are referencing something in the past.

  • Aquí supe la verdad y comencé a llorar. At that moment, I knew the truth and began crying.

And to introduce people who are physically located close to you.

  • Aquí Juanita, mi jefa.

You use acá for "until now/since then", showing the end of a time period and using de or desde.

  • Desde entonces acá ha estado buscando venganza. Since then, he has been searching for revenge.

  • De ayer acá ella ha estado buscando. From yesterday until now, she has been searching.

As a synonym to éste or ésta when referring to a person near you. (For more information regarding the difference between este and éste, or ésta and esta, see Episode 53: This, That, These, and Those in Spanish.)

  • Acá no tiene razón. This one is wrong.

Ahí

Meaning: There, but when it is close to the person you are talking to.

According to the RAE, this word means "En ese lugar." (You should also know, in some Latin American countries, it can be used the same way as allí.)


Some example sentences:

  • Nosotros vivimos ahí. We live there.

  • Apílalo allí. Stack it there.

Here are some example sentences of using it as a noun:

  • Los ciclistas pasan por ahí. The cyclists pass through there.

  • Ahí están los libros. There are the books.

It can also, in some Latin American places, be used as a synonym for quizá or tal vez, which means "perhaps" or "maybe".

  • Ahí comemos pastel mañana. Perhaps we eat cake tomorrow.

  • Por ahí se volvió loco. Maybe he went crazy.

You also combine it with por to discuss distances that aren't very far or are indeterminate.

  • El va por ahí. He is going there.

  • Pasaron por ahí. They passed by.


Allí and Allá

Meaning: Over there, when the object is far from both you and the person to whom you are speaking.

For allá, according to the RAE, this word means "En aquel lugar o en sus proximidades," whereas allí means "en aquel lugar". So they both mean "in that place over there", but allá is similar to acá in that it has that extra connotation of "in that proximity", even though that really doesn't make much of a difference in everyday life.


Some example sentences of allí/allá:

  • Nosotros vivimos allí/allá. We lived (way) over there.

  • Nosotros vamos allí/allá el año que viene. We are going (way) over there next year.

Here is an example sentence of them as nouns:

  • Ellos se fueron de allí/allá hace dos años. They left from (way) over there two years ago.

Just like with aquí and acá, there are certain phrases that only allí and allá can be used in.


You use allí to say "where there are" and "right over there".

  • Donde las montañas se encuentran con el mar, su casa si está allí. Where the mountains meet the sea, that is where their house is.

  • ¡Dejo mis llaves allí mismo! I put my keys right over there!

You use allá to say that something is someone's decision or problem.

  • Si prestas atención a mi consejo o no, allá tú. Whether you heed my advice or not, that's your problem/up to you.

You can also use it to emphasize that something is really far away (you use the preposition en).

  • Allá en el Ártico. Over there in the Arctic. (Way, way far away)

  • Allá en el pequeño pueblo. Over there in the tiny village. (Way, way far away)

This can also include a moment in the past, i.e., something from the very distant past.

  • Allá en su infancia, a los niños se les enseñó a guardar silencio. Back in her childhood, children were taught to be silent.

Allá can also be used to indicate a time or place that something happened, followed by por. Here are the two examples that the RAE gives.

  • Se conocieron allá por los años veinte. (My translation: They met each other back in the 20s.)

  • Allá por los Andes. (My translation: There in the Andes.)

If you aren't sure about when to use each word regarding distance, think of them in terms of este, ese, and aquel (see Episode 53: This, That, These, and Those in Spanish).

An interesting side note: There is an old, old word that was used in the 16th century (but is no longer), acullá, that the RAE says means "Allá o más allá." In other words,"way over there or further than way over there". It was also used to highlight a growing intensity. Here is the example sentence from the RAE: "Dispuso un dibujo aquí, un grabado allá, una foto acullá." (My translation: Arrange a drawing here, an engraving there, and a photo over there.) From my research, it seems to me that there were two different phrase sets to describe locations: aquí, ahí, and allí and acá, allá, and acullá. But these days, the acá set has changed, with acullá disappearing and allá meaning the same thing as allí.


Another interesting fact about the acá set: you can add modifiers, such as más or un poco más. For example, you can say, "un poco más acá", or "a little bit more here", but you wouldn't say, "un poco más aquí".


Fun Phrases

While researching this episode, here are some fun phrases that I found.

  • De aquí para allá/allí. Back and forth or to and fro.

  • Ex: Estoy siempre de aquí para allá. I´m always going back and forth.

  • Aquí y allí. Here and there. (I really like how sing-song this is.)

  • Por ahí. Right around there, more or less there.

  • Vete p'allá. Get out of here/away from me. (This is the combination of para and allá.For more on unofficial contractions, see Episode 6: Spanish Contractions, Part 2.)

  • Vente p'acá. Get over here. (para and acá.)

  • El más allá. The afterlife.

  • Muy allá. Very good. (Synonym of muy bien). The opposite would be No andar muy allá, which is "to not be very well."

  • No ve más allá de sus narices. He can't see what's right in front of him. (Literally, he can't see what's beyond his noses.)

I hope this has helped you! Remember, if there are any topics you would like me to cover, please email me at contact@languageanswers.com.


Remember, learning a language is a lifelong journey.

¡Aprovéchalo, Disfrútalo y Compártelo!

Cultural Tip: Argentina

Global National Holidays

Here is a list of holidays that many other countries also celebrate and which we have covered in other episodes (although I have included interesting tidbits for further context or unique ways Argentina celebrates the day).

  • New Year's Day (01/01)

  • Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, followed by Easter (04/01-04)

  • Labour Day (05/01)

  • Father's Day (3rd Sunday in June, not a public holiday)

  • Mother's Day (3rd Sunday in October, not a public holiday; it is celebrated in October because this used to be the day the church celebrated the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary - which was then moved to January 1st. Children will give their mothers flowers and treats. )

  • Immaculate Conception (12/08)

  • Christmas (12/25) (interesting fact: children will leave out their shoes to get gifts from the three wise men on Epiphany, January 6th. They might also leave out hay and water for the wise men's horses as they travel to see Baby Jesus.)

Unique National Holidays

They have a lot of unique holidays (10), so I've decided to break this up, in the interest of trying to not have a super long episode. We'll talk about 4 of them in today's episode, and the last 6 in our next episode, Episode 56.

1. Carnival Monday and Tuesday (02/15-16)

Carnival is always held before Ash Wednesday to mark the start of Lent. You've probably heard of Brazil's Carnival, which is similar to Argentina's, although Brazil inherited the tradition from the Portuguese and Argentina from the Spanish. The really extravagant celebrations are in Gualeguaychú (they have parades on the weekends from January through March). Both traditions fused with those of the African slaves brought over by the Europeans, creating what we have today in Brazil and Argentina. There are a lot of parades, and a lot of dancing and celebrating.

One cool thing about Carnival in Argentina is the Tincunaco Ceremony, which happens on the Thursday before Lent. It celebrates the relationship between a mom and her child's grandmother. For the ceremony, which highlights their bond, mothers form one line and grandmothers form the other, then they come together under a decorated arch made of willow branches and exchange a doll (that's made of candy) by touching each other's forehead. So even though it takes place before Monday and Tuesday, it's still considered part of the celebration.


2. Truth and Justice Memorial Day (Día de la Memoria, or Día de la Memoria por la Verdad y la Justicia) (03/24)

Always held on March 24th, this holiday is to remember the people who disappeared under the military junta that took power in 1976. The National Reorganization Process (el Proceso) overthrew President Isabel Peron and began a time of state terrorism. While we know that about 10,000 people disappeared, the actual count may be higher. This time of terror ended with democratic elections in 1983.

To mark this day, there are peaceful rallies and marches by those whose loved ones are among those who disappeared.


3. Malvinas Day (04/02)

This is always celebrated on April 2nd, and is a tribute to those who died in the Falklands-Malvinas War. Argentina launched an invasion of the Falklands (Malvinas Islands) on April 2, 1982. According to Britannica, the British seized control of the islands in 1833, despite Argentina's claims to them since the early 19th century. Later, when the dictatorial government of Argentina needed to rally public support (as you can imagine, it was struggling), they decided to invade the Falklands and regain their lost territory. What ensued was a war lasting 74 days and the deaths of 650 Argentinians and 255 British, with Britain regaining control of the islands. (Just a side note, OfficeHoliday.com says 649.)


The holiday in Argentina replaced the previous June 10th commemoration of Luis Vernet as governor of the islands in 1832, known as "Sovereignty over Malvinas Islands Day". The government is still trying to identify the remains of all of its fallen soldiers to this day.


4. May Day Revolution (Día de la Revolución de Mayo) (05/24-25)

Celebrated on May 25th, this day celebrates the first independent government in Buenos Aires after a revolution in the city took place in 1810. This began the process of the country's independence from Spain. This was back when Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia formed the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (they were basically one combined area) . Without a lot of violence (at least, that's what OfficeHolidays.com says), the city ousted the Spanish Crown's viceroyalty and set up their own. While the holiday is May 25th, this year it looks like they had a bridge day and got the Monday before off (May 25th was a Tuesday this year).

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