Vaya, Valla and Baya: The Meanings and Uses of These Confusing Spanish Words
Are you wondering if you should use b or v?
Are you hungry, but you don’t know if that valla is edible?
Are you unclear as to whether you could jump over it or not?
If these are the types of questions that spin around in your head, it probably means you’re having trouble with the Spanish words vaya, valla and baya.
You’re definitely not alone on this matter!
But fret not! By the time you finish reading this post, these three words won’t give you any more trouble.
- Why Are These Words so Problematic in the First Place?
- Vaya, Valla and Baya in a Nutshell
- Vaya: Translation and Uses
- Valla: Translation and Meaning
- Baya: Translation
- And One More Thing…
Why Are These Words so Problematic in the First Place?
There’s a very simple reason why these words are so problematic. They’re homonyms.
Homonyms are words that are spelled or pronounced similarly (often identically), which often makes language learners hesitate about which one they should use in a given scenario.
Let’s use the English words to, too and two as an introductory example. They’re different when it comes to spelling, but their pronunciation is the same. They’re homonyms, and more specifically homophones. These can be a bit of a headache for both English learners and native speakers.
Now, have a look at read (present tense) and read (past tense). They’re spelled identically, but their pronunciation is different. They’re also homonyms, but in this case, they’re homographs.
The problem with the words vaya valla and baya is that in Spanish, there’s no longer a distinction in the sound between b from v and ll from y. So, without any context, it’s nearly impossible to know which one is being used.
The FluentU program is a good place to start learning these words (and many more). The program uses Spanish videos to teach the language, which are paired with accurate subtitled and other learning tools.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
But first things first, what do these words mean?
Vaya, Valla and Baya in a Nutshell
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s have a look at the basic meanings of each of these words.
Vaya comes from the verb ir (to go). As you’ll see later, it actually refers to three different verb tenses, and it can also be an expression of surprise or emotion.
- Cuando vaya a la playa, me llevaré la toalla. (When I go to the beach, I’ll take the towel with me.)
- Vaya con Dios. (Godspeed / Go with God.)
Valla is a noun, and it means a fence or a hurdle.
- Mi casa es la que tiene la valla verde. (My house is the one with the green fence.)
- Su caballo no sabe saltar vallas. (Her horse doesn’t know how to leap over hurdles.)
A baya is also a noun, and it means berry, so it’s the edible one of the group.
- Nunca como bayas. (I never eat berries.)
- A María le encantan las bayas rojas. (María loves red berries.)
Let’s get a bit more into the details of these three words.
Vaya: Translation and Uses
You’ll find the verb form vaya (to go) in the following three tenses.
1. As the first person singular of the present subjunctive of the verb ir
- Cuando yo vaya, se lo diré. (When I go, I’ll tell him.)
- Llegaré tarde, a no ser que vaya en taxi. (I’ll arrive late unless I go by taxi/take a taxi.)
- Aunque vaya a tu casa, no me quedaré a dormir. (Even if I go to your place, I won’t stay the night.)
2. As the third person singular of the present subjunctive of the verb ir
- Necesito que Juan vaya a la tienda. (I need Juan to go to the shop.)
- A pesar de todo, no quiero que se vaya. (Nevertheless, I don’t want him to go.)
- Llama a Pedro cuando vaya a Barcelona. (Call Pedro when he goes to Barcelona.)
3. As the third person singular of the imperative of the verb ir (both affirmative and negative)
- Vaya a la reunión. Lo esperaré aquí. (Go to the meeting. I’ll be waiting for you here.)
- Vaya más despacio, por favor. (Go slower, please.)
- No vaya usted a caerse. (Don’t fall down.)
Apart from this, vaya is also used as an expression of surprise or emotion. It can be used by itself, with a noun or with a noun followed by a verb.
- ¡Vaya! (Dear me! / Oh, wow! / Oh, my God!)
- ¡Vaya casa! (What a house!)
- ¡Vaya frío hace! (It’s so cold!) Remember Spanish uses hacer with many weather expressions.
You can also add tan (so) and an adjective after vaya + noun if you want to be more specific.
- ¡Vaya casa tan grande! (What a big house!)
- ¡Vaya golpe tan fuerte! (What a strong blow!)
- ¡Vaya niño tan inteligente! (What an intelligent kid!)
As you may have guessed already, a vaya expression of surprise or emotion has the same meaning as the interjection ¡Qué…!
- ¡Qué casa tan grande! (What a big house!)
- ¡Qué golpe tan fuerte! (What a strong blow!)
- ¡Qué niño tan inteligente! (What an intelligent kid!)
Valla: Translation and Meaning
As I mentioned earlier, valla is a noun and it means fence. But, there’s a little more to this cute, little word.
As a noun, it behaves just like any other feminine noun.
- La valla es roja. (The fence is red.)
- Peter saltó sobre la valla. (Peter jumped over the fence.)
- Ese caballo salta vallas. (That horse can leap over hurdles.)
However, valla is also a form of the verb vallar (to fence, to fence off). In this case, it can be one of two different verb forms.
1. Third-person singular of the present indicative of the verb vallar
- El campesino valla el campo. (The farmer fences the field.)
- Juan valla su casa durante el invierno. (Juan fences his house during the winter.)
- Ella valla sitios históricos. (She fences historic sites.)
2. Second-person singular of the affirmative imperative (informal you) of the verb vallar
- ¡Valla tu casa ahora! (Fence your house now!)
- Valla ese campo antes de que llegue el invierno. (Fence that field before winter comes.)
- ¡Valla la frontera! (Fence the border!)
Baya is the only word of the group that is only a noun and has just means berry.
As such, it’s the easiest one of the three, and the only thing you should bear in mind is that it’s a feminine noun and it’s always written with b and y.
- Mi baya favorita es la fresa. (My favorite berry is the strawberry.)
- Anna no ha comido bayas desde que tenía 15 años. (Anna hasn’t eaten any berries since she was 15 years old.)
- ¡No tenía ni idea de que el aguacate, el plátano, la berenjena y el tomate son bayas! (I had no idea the avocado, the banana, the eggplant and the tomato are berries!)
So there you have it! Remember this and you won’t mix up these three similar sounding words again.
And One More Thing…
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