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What is the difference between haber and estar?

Today we are going to learn the difference between haber and estar!

I have already written an article with a complete explanation about the difference between ser and estar.

But what about haber and estar? Actually both can express existence, but we use them in different contexts.

Since in English you would just say ‘there is’ or ‘there are’, depending on the complement, you might find the contrast confusing.

But don’t worry, I’m here to help you once again!

Are you ready? Let’s go!

The difference between haber and estar

When to use haber

To express that somethings exists, we use haber in its impersonal form: hay.

Hay + una computadora, dos parques, cuatro autos, algún bar, etc.

Of course you can express existence in other verb tenses too: había una computadora, hubo una computadora, habrá una computadora, etc.

But we only conjugate haber in other personal pronouns when it works as an auxiliary verb for compound tenses: yo había ido, tú habías ido, el había ido, etc.

Also, it doesn’t change in grammatical number either. It’s the same for both singular and plural:

Hay una computadora. (= there is a computer)

Hay computadoras. (= there are computers)

We use haber to present new information, when we mention something for the first time.

That’s why it’s followed by an indefinite article (un/una) o quantifiers, those pronouns that express quantity without mentioning a number.

Hay un parque en la barrio. (= There’s a park in the neighborhood)

No hay ningún parque en el barrio. (= There aren’t any parks in the neighborhood)

¿Hay algún parque en el barrio? (= Are there any parks in the neighborhood?)

¿No hay ningún parque en el barrio? (= Aren’t there any parks in the neighborhood?)

Hay pocas / muchas parques en el barrio. (= There are few / many parks in the neighborhood)

Haber doesn’t admit definite articles (el/la). So ‘hay el parque en el barrio‘ isn’t gramatically right!

However, haber can also be followed by a number:

Hay cinco parques en el barrio.

An uncountable noun:

¿Hay agua en la heladera? (= Is there any water in the fridge?)

Or a contable noun in plural without an article:

Hay playas hermosas en la costa este.

Let’s see how to use estar now!

En mi barrio hay un cine - difference between haber and estar
En mi barrio hay un cine muy bueno. El cine está en la avenida principal. Foto de Lisa Fotios en Pexels

When to use estar

We use estar to talk about the location of something we have already mentioned or that is clearly identifiable in the context of the conversation.

El parque está en la avenida principal.

Está el taxista esperando afuera.

—¿Dónde pongo las bebidas?
—Ponlas en esa mesa
—Pero está la computadora de Kevin.
—No importa

So what ‘s the diferente between haber and estar?

Haber vs estar

As we just saw, haber expresses the existence of something that we mention for the first time, or that isn’t clearly identifiable by the interlocutor.

—Disculpe, ¿sabe si hay un cine por aquí?
—Sí, hay un cine muy bueno a tres cuadras.
(= three blocks away)

The first person is asking about the existence of a movie theater, but maybe there aren’t any.

The second person answers that there’s a movie theater, but they’re mentioning it for the first time.

The dialogue goes on:

—¡Perfecto! ¿En qué calle está el cine?
El cine está en la Avenida Acoyte y Rivadavia

Now they are talking about a movie theater in particular, identified by both of them, so they can use estar.

That’s why when we assume that our interlocutor knows what we are talking about we use estar!

—Disculpe, ¿sabe donde está el cine?
—Sí, está a la vuelta.

Estar doesn’t admit an indefinite article (un/una). So está un cine a tres cuadras’ isn’t grammatically right.

And that’s all for today!

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Thank you very much and until next time,


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