Hay or estar?
When discussing the different uses of the verb “estar”, we already pointed out that the localization is one its primary uses. Let’s recall it by an example
- la fotocopiadora está a la izquierda del ordenador the copy machine is on the left hand side of the computer.
Remember that if you build a sentence with estar, the noun has to be used with its definite article. In the above sentence you do not just say fotocopiadora está a la izquierda ordenadorbut la fotocopiadora está a la izquierda del ordenador.
In this lesson, we will extend this topic by learning “hay”. Because, sometimes they are mixed with each other.
Hay means there is or there are. It is used with indefinite objects, contrary to estar.
- Hay un cine nuevo en mi barrio There is a new cinema near my district.
- ¿Dónde estas? Where are you?
Since it is used with indefinite objects, hay is used very often with indefinite articles.
- En mi habitación hay un armario In my room there is a cupboard
- En mi habitación hay una mesa In my room there is a table
Thus, you have to take care of the correct use of indefinite articles.
As mentioned above hay can mean also there are, when used with plurals. In this case, you do not need to make any modifications to hay.
- ¿Hay muchas montañas en España? Are there a lot of mountains in Spain?
As given in the sentence above, another indefinite word mucha is used with hay. This use is also quite often the case. Another indefinite word it can be used with is “varios”
- En mi habitación hay varios flores In my room there are various flowers
Hay is used with certain quantities as well but in that case you need the express the numbe
- Hay tres gatos en mi casa There are three cats at my home
Note that you still refer to something which is indefinite. So, if you for example, want to ask
- ¿Cuántos alumnus hay en tu clase? How many students are there in your class?
If you have to use hay with plural nouns the number of which you don’t not know; you should use it without any article. Never use definite articles with hay.
• En la mesa hay libros There are books on the table
You need to use “hay”.
To understand the difference between hay and estar, have a look at the following example.
- ¿Hay leche? Sí, está en la nevera. Is there milk? Yes, it is in the refrigerator
In the first of the sentence he first speaker asks if there is milk. In the second sentence you anwer the question where it is.
Hence, most of the time, estar answers the question where. But be careful, only if a definite object is referred.
- ¿Dónde está el Hospital Madrid? Where is the Madrid Hotel?
- ¿Dónde hay un hospital por aquí? Is there a hospital nearby?
In the first sentence, estar is used because a specific hospital is looked for. In the second sentence you need to use hay, because in that case “any” hospital is looked for.
As we learned before, estar needs to agree with the number. Hence, you need to conjugate it according to the subject. Therefore, when it is used with plural nouns, you should use “estan”
- ¿Dónde estan los servicios? Where are the toilettes
To sum up when deciding whether you need to use hay or estar, you need to ask yourself whether the objects which are being referred to are definite or indefinite.
Following vocabulary is very useful when building sentences with “hay” and “estar”.
(el) edificio building
(el) banco bank
(el) museo museum
(la) farmacia pharmacy
(el) cine cinema
(el) barrio district
(el) pueblo village
(la) parade de autobus bus stop
(la) piscina swimming pool
(la) papelería stationer’s