Monthly Word / La palabra del mes

June 2004 ~ Spanish that Works Review

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Ya / YAH (already, now, soon) La palabra del mes

Using “Ya”

You can use ya (already) to make statements and questions. The translation may vary, but the general meaning is something that is already happening now, or has already happened.

Ya hablo español. (I already speak Spanish. I speak Spanish now.)
Ya hay flores en el jardín. (There are already flowers in the garden.)
Mi amigo ya tiene trabajo. (My friend already has a job.)

Ya he estudiado la lección. (I’ve already studied the lesson.)
¿Ya ha comido usted? (Have You* already eaten?)

¿La sopa ya está?
(Is the soup ready yet - already?)

*Capital letter used on “You” to indicate the polite, professional form of address.  The word usted (You) is used here for clarification, but is not required.


Using “Ya no”

You can use ya no (no longer) with a present tense verb to talk about something that used to happen, but doesn’t now.

Ya no tengo miedo. (I no longer have fear.  I'm not afraid anymore.)
Ya no hay problema. (There's no problem anymore.)
Ya no tengo el coche. (I no longer have the car.)
Ya no hay flores en el jardín.
(There aren’t any flowers in the garden anymore.)
Mi amigo ya no tiene trabajo.
(My friend no longer has a job.  My friend doesn’t have work anymore.)


Ya, Now and Yet

Although it can translate as “now,” ya is different from ahora / ah-OHddah (now). With ya, there is an additional meaning of “already,” or that something that has been waited for has “finally” happened. For example:

Ya tengo el coche.
(I already have the car now. Finally!)
Ahora tengo el coche.
(I have the car now. I might not have it later, but I have it at this moment.)
Also, the word ya can translate as “yet” when the meaning is “already” (“Is it done yet?” “Is it done already?”) However, you can’t use ya no to mean “not yet.”

“Not yet” means something has not happened already. The way you say “not yet” or “still don’t” in Spanish is todavía no / toh-thah-VEE-ah NOH. The word todavía all by itself means that you “still do” something. Here are some examples to illustrate this important distinction:

Todavía tengo el coche.
(I still have the car. I’ve had it for some time.)
Ya tengo el coche.
(I already have the car. I have it now, but didn’t have it before.)
Todavía no tengo el coche.
(I don’t have the car yet. I still don’t have the car, I never had it.)
Ya no tengo el coche.
(I don’t have the car any longer. I had it already, but now I don’t anymore.)

In the beginning, it’s best if you just learn ya as “already” and ya no as “no longer.” Then learn some expressions that you can use right away to help you get an intuitive understanding of how to use ya and ya no.


More uses of “Ya”

Ya can convey the meaning of immediate importance, and may translate as “at long last,” “finally,” or “enough already!”

For example, to tell kids to behave, parents will sometimes just say ¡Ya! (That’s enough already!)

You can also use ¿Ya? (Are you done yet???) as a question all by itself, when you want to know if something is finished.

Sometimes ya is used when a speaker wants to acknowledge what you are saying, even if he or she may not be in complete agreement with you. In these cases, it can sound like the person is saying “yeah” in English, but the meaning is more like “I already know that.” For example:

El coche es bueno... (The car is good...)
Ya, pero... (I already know that, but...)


Popular expressions

Other popular uses of ya are:

¡Ya basta! (It’s enough already!)
Ya lo creo. (Certainly!)
    NOTE:  Literal translation is "I believe it already."
Ya le pasará. (He or she will get over it, it’s going to pass)
Ya se acabó. (It’s finished, it’s over now.)
Ya me voy. (I’m leaving. I’m going out now.)
NOTE: You say this when you are leaving to go out someplace.
¡Ya voy! (I’m coming! I’m going to where you are!)
NOTE: You say this when someone calls to you to come from another room.

A "dicho" or popular saying with ya is:

Ya cayó el chivo en el lazo.
Literal translation: The goat already fell into the trap.
Meaning: Something sought after is now guaranteed .
English equivalent: It’s in the bag.


Remember it!

Imagine yourself in a pep rally, like the kind they have corporate team-building meetings, having to repeat silly things and clap hands ...

Say “yeah” (“yah”) already!

Say “yeah” (“yah”) ‘til you can say it no longer!
¡Ya no!

¡Ya, ya, ya, ya, ya!
¡Ya no!

Ya = already
Ya no = no longer

¡...y ya está! = and that’s that!

©2004 Elizabeth Almann


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