What’s the difference between hay, ay and ahí?

Introduction

Although the words hay, ay and ahí are written and pronounced in a very similar way, they have completely different meanings. Learn how to use these three confusing words correctly with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then test yourself in the exercises.

Voy a salir con Nina de paseo por el parque. Pero... ¡Ay! ¿Dónde está Nina? En esta casa hay demasiadas cosas, y siempre se esconde para jugar. ¡Ah! ¡Ahí está la perrita!

hay

Hay is the impersonal form of the verb haber. It can be translated as there is or there are.

Example:
Ya hay flores en el jardín.There are already flowers in the garden.

Hay can be conjugated in all tenses in both the indicative and subjunctive moods. However, unlike English, hay is only ever conjugated in the third person singular, even when it refers to a plural object.

Example:
Había muchas personas en la manifestación. → imperfect tense, indicative mood There were many people at the protest.
not: Habían muchas personas…

¡Ay!

¡Ay! is an interjection that can express surprise, sorrow, pain, annoyance or emotion, similar to the English oh!, oh no!, ow! or ouch!

Example:
¡Ay! ¡Qué susto me he llevado!Oh! I got such a fright!

ahí

Ahí is an adverb that refers to a place (far) away from the speaker, similar to the English there.

Example:
Ahí está el gato: detrás del sofá.There is the cat: behind the sofa.