Updated: Apr 1, 2020
To give and request information about the existence of objects, we use a special form of the 3rd person singular of the verb haber: hay
When we ask for an object that we don't know if it exists, we use hay. If the answer is affirmative, because the object exists, after the affirmation we say the place where it is.
–¿Hay un ordenador? Is there a computer?" –Sí, está en el despacho. Yes, it's in the office. –¿Hay agua? There's water? –Sí, sí hay. Está en la botella. Yes, there is. It's in the bottle.
If the answer is negative, we simply use the negation there is not.
–¿Hay Coca-Cola? Is there Coca-Cola? –No, no hay. No, there is not.
The form there is used when the object is unknown; that is, when we do not know if it exists or not. That is why we use the indeterminate article or we do not use an article, but the determined article is never used (el, la,…).
¿Hay un teléfono? ¿Hay dinero?
If the object is previously known to us, if we know that it exists, we do not use the form there and neither do we use the indeterminate article. We use the specific article (el, la, ...) and ask with the verb estar.
–¿Dónde está el ordenador? Where is the computer? –Está en el despacho. He's in the office. –¿Dónde está la llave? Where is the key? –Está en la cocina. Is in the kitchen
Differences Between "Haber" and "Estar" in Spanish
Both estar and haber can be used to indicate the presence of a person or thing. However, they are seldom interchangeable. Students of Spanish need to be aware of the subtle differences between these two words can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
Haber or Estar?
The difference is that haber, typically in the form of hay in the present tense or había for the past, is used to indicate the mere existence of the person or thing. Estar, on the other hand, is used to indicate the location of the person or thing.
Note, for example, the difference between these two sentences:
No hay presidente. This sentence indicates that the president doesn't exist, perhaps because the office is vacant. A likely translation: "There is no president.
El presidente no está. This sentence might be used, for example, to indicate that the president isn't present, although he or she exists somewhere. A likely translation: "The president isn't here."
Sometimes, the difference in meaning between estar and haber can be subtle. Note the difference between these two sentences:
El juguete está en la silla. The toy is on the chair.
Hay un juguete en la silla. There is a toy on the chair.
As a practical matter, there's not a lot of difference in meaning. But grammatically, the verb (está) in the first sentence is used to indicate location, while the verb (hay) in the second sentence indicates mere existence.
Let's practice Listening Activity No. 1: Expressing existence in Spanish
In this video you will learn how to express existence in Spanish with some examples.
Listening and Quiz Activity No. 2: Uses of "Hay" and "Estar"
In this video we are going to visit a house. Watch the video a couple of times, search words you do not know in a dictionary and, finally, do the exercises below.
Now let’s practice what you have seen in the video, with the activities below. "Choose estar or haber " Remember you can contact your tutor if you have any questions.
1. En la casa ____________ un pasillo (hall).
2. En la entrada _____________ un mueble.
3. Encima del mueble _______ los patos.
4. Debajo del horno ________ el lavavajillas
5. En el salón _______ dos sofás y tres mesas.
6. ¿______ jardín en mi casa?
7. En el cuarto de baño _______ el espejo.
8. En el escritorio ______ el portátil
9. En la __________ hay un horno, un microondas y una lavadora.
Quiz Activity No. 3: Complete with "Hay" or "No hay"
Look at the photo of this room and complete with "Hay" or "No Hay", as appropriate.
_____________ una televisión.
_____________ un ordenador.
_____________ un sofá.
_____________ un libro.
_____________ un vaso.
_____________ una Coca-Cola.
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Hasta la vista
The Español Latino Team.