If you thought that we’d left out the most basic adverbs of place, worry not! After all, we wouldn’t get very far without the Portuguese equivalents to “here”, “there”, and “over there”. In Portuguese, there’s a three-way distinction between things or persons close to the speaker (aqui, cá), things or persons close to the listener (aí), and things or persons far from both (lá, ali, acolá) – but the way to express these distances is not always straightforward. Let’s have a look at how these adverbs work:
Aqui & Cá
Aqui and cá are used when talking about things close to the speaker. While they’re both equivalent to the English “here”, there is a subtle difference between them.
Aqui designates the exact spot where the speaker is, regardless of the listener’s location, and so it means, “in this place”.
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. Over here we have dinner at 8pm, sharp.
Está cá a mãe da Carolina. Carolina’s mum is over here.
As you can see, in these examples, the speaker is referring to something inside a larger, yet well-defined, area – in both these instances, a house.
Ali & Acolá
Ali and acolá 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, 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. Example:
Aqui temos café, acolá temos sumo de laranja. Here we have coffee, and over there we have orange juice.
Lá, just like cá, refers to an area larger than a single location, and 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.
Aí is similar to saying, “there”, but is limited to the exact location where the listener is.
Bela mochila que aí tens . Nice rucksack you’ve got there.
Ela deixou o livro dela aí. She left her book there.