Is Spanish spelling your public enemy number one?
Do you get hung up on h’s that are silent, j’s that sound like h’s and double l’s that are pronounced as ya?
Are the words allá, haya, halla and aya making your head spin out of control in confusion?
Well, you are not alone!
Even native Spanish speakers have spelling struggles, and allá, haya, halla and aya are at the top of many of their lists!
The Spanish language is full of words that sound very similar, if not that same, but are spelled differently and obviously have different meanings.
While that list is long, you have to start somewhere, so let’s start with these four commonly-confused little words.
The Best Way to Learn the Differences Between Halla, Haya, Aya and Allá
You might be wondering how you can learn all those little words that sound so similar.
Well, as a Spanish language learner, you have access to an incredible tool that can help you learn, improve and perfect your Spanish spelling skills—as well as essential grammar rules, vocabulary, and listening and comprehension skills. That tool is FluentU!
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Since all of FluentU’s videos are authentic real-world videos, you will have the unique opportunity to hear the way native Spanish speakers talk and interact with one another. In watching and listening to these types of videos, you will be exposed to a lot of slang, collocations and useful Spanish expressions that you will not find in a Spanish textbook.
Why is this relevant to this particular topic? Well, you are sure to encounter the words allá, haya, halla and aya as you watch and learn with FluentU, and many other commonly confused and misspelled words.
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And just as FluentU will help you take your Spanish from zero to hero, this post will also help you get a few steps closer to Spanish fluency.
So, first things first: Why are these four little words so problematic?
Let’s solve this mystery together!
Why Are Halla, Haya, Aya and Allá Problematic?
There are two main reasons why these four words are very problematic in Spanish, both for native speakers and Spanish learners.
The first reason is that three of them—haya, halla and aya—are homophones, which means that they are all pronounced the exact same way.
There was a time when the letters ll and y were pronounced differently, but nowadays they are practically the same sound. As a result, without any context, it is difficult to decipher which word is being spoken.
As for allá, it is the easiest one to recognize because it is the only one with the word stress in the last syllable. It also has an accent mark, which helps it stand out, so it is only problematic when it comes to spelling.
The common and mind-boggling questions related to these words are often: Is haya written with an h or without one? Which of these is a noun again, and which one a verb? Isn’t one of them a tree? (Yes, there is a tree hidden amongst these!) Do I use halla or haya when dealing with mathematics?
If you want to master these four little words and even get the chance to help your Spanish friends sort them out too, read on!
Allá, Haya, Halla and Aya as Clear as Day
It is time to learn once and for all when and how to use halla, haya, aya and allá like a spelling bee master!
You know already that they are spelled differently, and that one is related to math and another one is a tree. So, you are already off to a good start.
You can click on each of the problem words in the headings below to hear them pronounced!
When and How to Use Allá
As I said before, allá is the easiest of these four words, for a couple of reasons.
For starters, it is the only adverb. Allá is an adverb of place, and it means there or over there.
It is also the only one of the four that is stressed on the last syllable and has an accent mark, which makes it stand out easily amongst the rest.
Let’s see a couple of examples just to make sure you know how to use it.
Dame aquella naranja de allá. (Give me that orange over there.)
Allá vamos. (There we go.)
Hay un niño pequeño allá. (There is a small child over there.)
When and How to Use Haya
Haya is a form of a verb and a type of tree.
Haya comes from the verb haber (to be).
You may already know the difference between ser and estar (both meaning to be), and you may also know their step-brother hay (there is/there are).
Hay comes from the verb haber, and so does haya, but while hay is the present tense, haya is the third person singular of the present subjunctive.
Me alegro de que haya venido. (I am happy he has come.)
Espero que Anna haya aprobado el examen. (I hope Anna passed the exam.)
Avísame cuando mamá haya terminado. (Let me know when mom has finished.)
Haya is also a feminine noun, and it means beech tree.
Hay una gran haya en mi jardín. (There is a big beech tree in my garden.)
Las hayas son muy hermosas. (Beech trees are very beautiful.)
Since haya is in this list, it is a problematic word, but haya as a tree is even more problematic!
As I said, haya is a feminine noun, so its article should be la. However, we say el haya (the beech tree). But why?
The only reason is that haya is a feminine noun starting with an /a/ sound that carries the voice stress of the word. Spanish does not like it when la is followed by one of these words, so it changes la for el.
As a feminine word, all the adjectives and determiners around it will also be feminine (and so will the definite article in the plural).
Esta haya tiene 30 metros de alto. (This beech tree is 30 meters tall.)
¡Mira que haya tan bonita tiene Juan! (Look what a beautiful beech tree Juan has!)
Las hayas son plantas caducifolias. (Beech trees are deciduous plants.)
When and How to Use Halla
Halla is a form of two different verb tenses.
It comes from the verb hallar (to find, to discover, to calculate), and it is one of the four related to mathematics.
Halla can be two different forms of the verb hallar.
On the one hand, it is the third person singular of the present indicate (he/she/it finds).
Quien busca, halla. (He who seeks finds.)
Juan siempre halla la excusa perfecta. (Juan always finds the perfect excuse.)
El pirata halla un tesoro. (The pirate finds/discovers a treasure.)
On the other hand, it is the second person singular of the imperative. The imperative is used for commands, so it is very common to see this word in math problems.
Halla la hipotenusa del triángulo. (Find the hypotenuse of the triangle.)
Halla la solución del siguiente problema. (Find the solution to the following problem.)
Halla la velocidad del coche. (Calculate the speed of the car.)
When and How to Use Aya
Aya is a feminine noun and it means governess.
This word is easier to learn than halla and haya because it only has one meaning. However, you should bear in mind it behaves just like el haya, i.e., it is a feminine noun starting with an /a/ sound that carries the voice stress of the word.
El aya le dijo que guardara silencio. (The governess told her to remain silent.)
La vieja aya es muy severa. (The old governess is very strict.)
Esta es mi aya favorita. (This is my favorite governess.)
Just in case you are still doubting about the difficulty of these four words, let me show you some examples where they all appear together in a sentence.
I hope you do not get too dizzy!
El aya no halla el haya que hay allá. (The governess does not find the beech tree that is over there.)
Halla el haya antes de que el aya haya llegado. (Find the beech tree before the governess arrives.)
And the huge, final monster:
Allá ella si no halla la aya allá donde haya una haya en La Haya sin que ella—el aya—la haya hallado ya. (It is up to her if she does not find the governess there where there is a beech tree in The Hague before she—the governess—has found it already.)
I just love languages! Don’t you?
As you can see, mastering these four words can be a little bit tricky, but if you learn their spelling and their meaning correctly, you will not have any problem with them.
Now try to think of sentences where you would use one or more of these words and put your knowledge to the test.
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