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The Many Meanings of the Spanish Word Ahí

You are probably familiar with the Spanish word ahí (not to be confused with hay or ay), which is one of the ways to say "there" in Spanish. However, you may have noticed that it seems to be used frequently by many native speakers with different meanings, which aren't always easy to intuit. Let's explore many of the possible meanings of the common Spanish word ahí.


1. There

Like the English word "there," the Spanish word ahí can mean "in that place," "to that place" or merely "that place." When referring to physical location, the word ahí technically describes the closest distance relative to the other Spanish words for "there," allí and allá, but is often used interchangeably with the others. Let's take a look at some examples.


In That Place:

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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To That Place:

Entonces no sé si vamos ahí.

So I don't know if we [can] go there.

Caption 34, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 2 - Part 2

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That Place:

In this usage, the word ahí is often preceded by a preposition, as we see here:

Y a veces, por ahí sale el calor del centro de la tierra.

And sometimes, the heat from the center of the earth comes out through there.

Caption 48, Guillermina y Candelario El Gran Descubrimiento

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When paired specifically with the Spanish preposition de, de ahí literally means "from that place" and works like the English word "hence" to refer to something that was said previously:


recordando a la cabeza de un ave; de ahí su nombre no científico.

reminding one of a bird's head; hence its non scientific name.

Captions 63-64, Isabel Lavesa Especies vegetales

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2. From That Point or Situation 

In this usage, the Spanish word ahí also references something that was previously mentioned and might be translated with "there" or other phrases like "that's when," "that's where," etc. Let's see two examples in context:


y veía a ese grupo y decía: "Che, ¿y nosotros por qué no?" Y de ahí nace la idea de empezar a juntarse. 

and I saw that group and said, "Hey, and why not us?" And, from there, the idea of starting to get together is born.

Captions 41-42, Tu Música El Ensamble Latino - Part 1

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Y ahí me vino la inspiración de hacer un vídeo sobre los medios de transporte.

And that's where the inspiration came to me to make a video about the means of transportation.

Captions 9-10, Aprendiendo con Silvia Medios de transporte - Part 1

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3. At That Moment (Then)

The word ahí in Spanish can also work like the English word "then" to refer to a specific moment in time:


Ahí vamos a agregar nuestra, eh... panela en almíbar, se podría decir, ¿no?, o panela derretida.

Then, we're going to add our, um... panela syrup, you might say, right? Or melted panela.

Captions 49-50, Otavalo Proyecto familiar Kawsaymi - Part 5

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Let's look at this usage in the context of common fixed expressions in both Spanish and English:


De ahí en adelante las cosas empezaron a suceder con rapidez.

From then on, things began to happen quickly.

Caption 32, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 13 - Part 4

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4. Perhaps

The word ahí can also work like the word "maybe" or "perhaps," as we see below:


Y ahí voy a la fiesta mañana; no estoy segura. 

And maybe I'll go to the party tomorrow; I'm not sure. 


Fixed Expressions With the Spanish Word Ahí

In addition to the many uses we just covered, the word ahí is also part of many fixed expressions in Spanish. Below you will find several with example sentences.


Por ahí

Just this one Spanish construction can have many different meanings in different contexts, aside from the literal one, "through there," which we saw previously. Let's take a look at several of them.


     Maybe, Might:

Por ahí se preparan un asadito... no sé.

They might prepare a barbecue... I don't know.

Caption 56, Muñeca Brava 44 El encuentro - Part 8

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     "They," "People"

Por ahi can also be used similarly to the impersonal se construction in Spanish to describe what "people" generally do, say, etc. Alternative translations for the caption below thus include "As they say" or "As people say."

Como dicen por ahí, todo tiene su ciencia.

As the saying goes, there's a science to everything.

Caption 20, Guillermina y Candelario El Manglar

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     Around (Physically)

O... "Por favor, no lo dejéis todo por ahí tirado.

Or... "Please, don't leave everything scattered around.

Caption 19, Aprendiendo con Silvia Significados del verbo dejar - Part 1

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     Around (About/More or Less)

Él se hizo famoso por ahí de los años setentas

He became famous around the seventies

Caption 15, Guillermo el chamán La tecnología maya

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Comer/Cenar por ahí: to go out to eat/go to dinner

Vamos a cenar por ahí esta noche.

We're going to go out to dinner tonight. 


Ahí va: It's coming along, hanging in there

¿Cómo está el proyecto? -Ahí va.

How's the project? It's coming along.


¿Cómo está tu hermano? Me dijeron que estaba enfermo.  -Ahí va. Todavía no se encuentra muy bien. 

How's your brother? I heard he was sick. -He's hanging in there. He's still not feeling very well.


Ahí voy: Coming, I'll be right there

This might be used when someone is at the door or calling you, for example, from another room. 


A partir de ahí: from that point, from there

A partir de ahí, comienza lo que serán veinticuatro horas de fiesta ininterrumpida,

From there, what will be twenty-four hours of uninterrupted partying begins

Captions 56-57, Días festivos La Tamborrada de San Sebastián

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Ahí no más: very close, just a stone's throw away

Tenemos la Unidad Operativa de Punta Pirámide, que está ahí nomás de Puerto Pirámide

We have the Operational Unit of Punta Pirámide, which is very close to Puerto Pirámide,

Captions 21-22, Perdidos en la Patagonia Península Valdés

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Ahí mismo: right there 

y ahí mismo vamos a echar nuestra carne salpimentada.

and right there, we're going to put in our seasoned meat.

Caption 38, La cocina de María Estofado de ternera

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Quieto ahí (Don't move, Stand still, Stop, Halt)

Quieta ahí.

Don't move.

Caption 28, Yago 2 El puma - Part 9

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That's all for this lesson on the many meanings of the Spanish word ahí, alone and in fixed expressions. We hope that it will help you to use it and understand it in different contexts, and don't forget to write us with your questions and comments!


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