Portuguese has several advérbios de lugar adverbs of place to indicate the relative position of a person or object. Five of these adverbs are particularly useful to learn: cá aqui aí ali lá acolá . In short, cá and aqui both mean here. Aí, lá, ali, and acolá mean there. Below we’ll explore the finer differences between each of these words.
Here and There
In Portuguese, here and there are a bit more complicated because different words are used to make a distinction between how close things are in relation to the speaker and listener:
- Here – Close to the speaker: aqui or cá
- There – Close to the listener: aí
- There/Over there – Far from both the speaker and listener: lá, ali, or acolá
Let’s take a look at each group in more detail.
Aqui vs. Cá
Aqui Hereexact and cá heregeneral are used when talking about things close to the speaker. While aqui is commonly used in both Portugal and Brazil, cá is, for the most part, specific to European Portuguese. Some people will use them interchangeably, but in theory, cá is less specific than aqui. While they’re both equivalent to the English word here, there is a subtle difference in the intended meanings of each word. Take these sentences, for example:
- A minha família está cá. My family is here. – When you use cá to talk about people, you might simply be saying that your family is in the same country or town as you are (e.g. cá em Portugal here in Portugal)
- A minha família está aqui. My family is here. – In contrast, if you use aqui, it can imply that your family is much closer to you — in the same room or building, or even right next to you (e.g. aqui ao meu lado here by my side)
Let’s explore a few more examples with each word individually:
Aqui designates the exact spot where the speaker is, regardless of the listener’s location, so you could think of it as “in this place” or “right here”.
Fico aqui à tua espera. I’ll be waiting for you here.
Ele deixou aqui o chapéu. He left his hat here.
Cá, meanwhile, conveys a more general location, rather than a single, precise spot. It is similar to saying, “over here”.
Cá janta-se às oito em ponto. Here we have dinner at 8pm, sharp.
Está cá a mãe da Carolina. Carolina’s mum is over here.
In these examples, the speaker is referring to something inside a larger, yet well-defined, area – in both these instances, a house.
Expressions Using Aqui and Cá
Setting aside the guidelines mentioned above, it’s also important to mention some common expressions using each of these adverbs:
Anda cá Come here
Chega aqui Come here, Come closer
Cá estamos nós! Here we are!
Aqui vou ser feliz I'm going to be happy here
Aí vs. Lá
Aí There and Lá There, over there both translate to “there”, but similarly to aqui and cá, they different in specificity.
When it’s in a location far from you, but close to your listener, you use aí thereclose to listener
When it’s very far from both of you (i.e. out of sight or reach), you use lá therevery far from both
Lá refers to a more general area, larger than a single spot. Like acolá, it can be interpreted as “over there”. However, lá usually refers to an area out of sight.
Lá neva muito. It snows a lot over there.
Deixei as minhas malas lá. I left my bags over there.
Once again, in these examples, we’re referring to something in a larger area – in the first example, a country or region, and in the second example, a building or place.
Ali vs. Acolá
Ali There and acolá there, over there are used when talking about things far away from both the speaker and listener. They are similar to saying, “there” and “over there”.
Ali refers to a distant location, and acolá refers to a second spot, even farther away than ali.
Elas esperaram ali por eles. They waited over there for them.
Podes montar o cavalete ali e meter os pincéis acolá. You can set up your easel there and your brushes over there.
Acolá can also work with aqui, in the exact same way. For example:
Aqui temos café, acolá temos sumo de laranja. Here we have coffee, and over there we have orange juice.
Whew! That was a lot. Let’s go over how to say here and there in Portuguese one more time before we practice in the lessons.
- aqui = here in the exact location of the speaker
- cá = here in general
- aí = there in the exact location of the listener
- There/Over There
- ali = there/over there, a location far away from both, but still visible/accessible
- lá = there in general, far away from both, not visible/accessible
- acolá = over there, a location far away from both, implies being further away than the other location just referenced
Spatial Relationships with Este, Esse, and Aquele
Another way to think of these adverbs of place is to compare them to the demonstrative pronouns/determiners este this, esse that close to listener, and aquele that far away. These would be the equivalents:
- este – cá, aqui
- esse – aí
- aquele – ali, lá, acolá