Hay vs Está

Introduction

Hay vs está when to use each of them?Hay is coming from 3rd person present of verb haber – to have. Está is same 3rd person present of verb estar – to be.

Usage

You should remember this easy concept to properly use hay and estar:

está estar to be used to indicate location
hay haber to have used to indicate existance




Está

So when we are talking about location of something or somewone we will use estar. For example:

  • Mi amiga está en un hotel.

In this example we are talking where specific person is – my friend – and she is in hotel. Because speaking of specific person we are using estar.

  • ¿Dónde está el Museo de Picasso?

Here we are asking where is specific museum, so we are talking about location.

  • ¿Dónde está la casa de tú hermano?

In this example we are asking where is specific house, again asking about location of house.

As you can see from examples estar is used when a specific person or thing is referred to.

Table shows how you can easily recognise when to use estar:

ESTAR – used with:
el, la, los, las noun preceded by a definite article
ese or esta noun preceded by a demonstrative adjective
mi, tu, su… noun preceded by a possessive adjective




Hay

When we are talking about existance of something we will use hay. For example:

  • Hay muchas tiendas en Internet.

We are indicating existance of internet shops, not talking about specific one.

  • ¿Dónde hay un policía?

We are asking where is police officer, not asking for specific one, any of them. That’s why we are using hay.

  • ¿Dónde hay un cajero automático?

We are asking where is ATM, not asking for specific one, any of them. That’s why we are using hay.

As you can see from examples hay is used when we are talking about existance or when not refering to specific person or thing.

Table shows how you can easily recognise when to use hay:

HABER – used with:
un, una, unos, unas noun preceded by a indefinite article
algún, muchos, muchas noun preceded by non possessive adjective
problema, riesgo nouns that can’t have a location




Examples

When we are asking about someones location or answering to that question.

  • ¿Dónde estás? Estoy en un hotel.

We are asking You, where are you now? So asking about location, not existance. We are using estar. Person responding uses estoy as 1st person present of verb estar because is talking about itself. Even it does not specify current location by using un hotel – some hotel we are using estar because talking about persons location not about existance of hotel.

Be careful what you want to say:

  • No hay ordenador. (There is no computer)
  • El ordenador no está. (The computer is not there.)

If you want to say that there is no any computer you will use first sentance, but if you want to say that specific computer is not there you will use second one.

  • No hay presidente. (There is no president.)
  • El presidente no está. (The president is not here.)

Firs sentance is telling that there is no existance of president, he is not elected, he is killed or something like that. Second one is just saying that he is not here, he is maybe on vacation or he is just in some other location.

Sometimes, the difference in meaning between estar and haber can be really small:

  • La botella está en la mesa. (The bottle is on the table.)
  • Hay una botella en la mesa. (There is a bottle on the table.)

In first sentence we are saying that specific bottle is on the table and on second one we are just indicating existance on some bottle on the table. Here difference is very small, notice the usage of la and una. This can help you recognise when to use estar or haber.

 

We hope this post help you improve your Spanish. If you think is time to start talking in past, check our Pretérito Perfecto tutorial here.

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Marko Vucak Author

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