Five Essential Adverbs of Place – Cá, Aqui, Aí, Ali, Lá

Portuguese has several advérbios de lugar adverbs of place to indicate the relative position of a person or object. Five of them are particularly useful to learn: cá, aqui, aí, ali and .
In short, and aqui both mean here. Aí, lá, and ali mean there. Below we’ll explore the finer differences between each of these words.

Using Cá vs. Aqui

For the most part, and aqui can be considered synonyms. They both indicate a position close to the speaker. While aqui is commonly used in both Portugal and Brazil, is, for the most part, specific to European Portuguese. Some people will use them interchangeably, but in theory, is less specific than aqui. Let’s see some examples:

A minha família está . My family is here.

A minha família está aqui. My family is here.

In this case, when you use , 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).
On the other hand, 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).

A cadeira está . The chair is here abstract

A cadeira está aqui. The chair is here specific

The difference between and aqui is more obvious when you want to indicate the exact position of an object. If you wanted to communicate that the chair was right next to, you would use aqui to express that, because that’s the adverb that really pinpoints an exact location. You would only use if you just wanted to say that the chair was somewhere in the general area.
Setting aside the guidelines mentioned above, it’s also important to mention some common expressions that use one of these specific adverbs over the other:
Anda Come here.
Chega aqui Come here; come closer.
estamos nós! Here we are!
Aqui vou ser feliz I'm going to be happy here.

Using Aí, Ali and Lá

These are the adverbs we use when something is farther away from us.
When it’s a location far from you, but close to your listener, you use .
When it’s far from both of you, but still relatively close (and often still visible to both of you), you use ali.
When it’s very far from both of you, you use .
Let’s see some examples:

A caneta está The pen is there far from speaker, close to listener

In this first example with , we’re saying that the pen is close to the listener.

A caneta está ali The pen is there far from both, but not too far

By using ali, we’re implying that the pen is not close to either of us, but it’s still somewhere where we can see it or that it’s more or less within reach.

Ela vive ali ao fundo da rua. She lives over there at the end of the street.

Here, using ali, you’re most likely referring to someone who lives in the same neighbourhood as where you currently are. You might even be able to see the house from a distance.

A caneta está The pen is there very far from both of you

Using is the best way to make it clear that the pen is far away, out of sight and reach (for example, if you’re at home and you forgot it at the office).

Ele vive no Japão. He lives there in Japan.

Here we use because we’re talking about someone who lives in a different country. If it were the same country, we would have used .

Spatial Relationships with Este, Esse and Aquele

If you had to match these adverbs of place with the demonstrative pronouns/determiners este this, esse that close to listener, and aquele that far away, below would be the result:

  • Este – Cá, Aqui
  • Esse –
  • Aquele – Ali, Lá

…if you happen to already understand the differences between those demonstratives, then you’ll be well on your way to mastering these adverbs!

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