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How to Use Hay, Ahí, and Ay in Spanish

Are you confused about the similar-sounding Spanish words hay, ahí, and ay? If that's the case, this brief lesson will help you to know how and when to use each of them. Let's take a look!


The Meaning of Hay

The word hay, an impersonal form of the Spanish verb haber, is used to express existence. In other words, hay is the Spanish equivalent of "there is" and "there are." Let's see a couple of clips that include it:


Encima de ella, hay una lámpara negra.

Above her, there's a black lamp.

Caption 18, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: Hay y estar

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hay cosas muy interesantes,

there are very interesting things,

Caption 61, Aprendiendo con Silvia Campanas - Part 2

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The Meaning of Ahí

Ahí, on the other hand, is an adverb meaning "in that place." It is one of the Spanish equivalents of the English word "there." Let's see some examples:


y lo dejaremos ahí hasta que hierva.

and we'll leave it there until it boils.

Caption 19, Ana Carolina Ponche navideño

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y Minos, con una cara que no era la suya, se quedó ahí para siempre.

and Minos, with a face that wasn't his own, stayed there forever.

Captions 43-44, Aprendiendo con Carlos El microrrelato - Part 3

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The Meaning of Ay

Last but not least, the Spanish word ay, which is often translated with the English interjection "oh," is used to express a range of different emotions like the following:




Ay, lentejas al almuerzo, lentejas a la comida... Ay, mamá, -Lentejitas. -¡qué pobreza tan asquerosa! -¡Mm!

Oh, lentils for lunch, lentils for dinner... Oh, Mom, -Lentils. -what revolting poverty! -Hmm!

Captions 17-18, Confidencial: Broma pesada Capítulo 1 - Part 6

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¡Ay! ¡Estoy horrible!

Oh! I look horrible!

Caption 44, Extr@: Extra en español Ep. 7: La gemela - Part 4

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Es por ahí. ¡Ahí es! Ay... ¡ay!

It's around there. There it is! Oh... oh!

Caption 8, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 1 - Part 10

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You can also use the word ay to introduce a comment or response about something. Let's look at a couple of examples of this usage:


¿Qué? Ay, Kevin, nosotros no podemos esperarlo durante cuatro años.

What? Oh, Kevin, we can't wait for you for four years.

Captions 2-3, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 13 - Part 7

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Ay, mijo, hacele caso a tu mamá, ¿sí?

Oh, my son, listen to your mom, OK?

Caption 39, Carlos comenta La sucursal del cielo - Part 4

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Now that we know how to use these three words, we would like to invite you to remember the following sentence, which some teachers use to teach the difference between the aforementioned terms:


Ahí hay un hombre que dice ay.

There, there's a man who says oh.


That's all for this lesson. Do you now feel confident about using the words hay, ahí, and ay? We hope so, and don't forget to send us your suggestions and comments.


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