While “tener” indicates possession “haber” indicates existence. “Haber” in Spanish is an impersonal verb, this means it does not have conjugation. In other words, “haber” has only one form which is “hay” which in English translates to “there is” and “there are”. “Hay” is used regardless of the number and gender.
Here are some examples,
Hay + number + noun.
Important: In English, it is possible to say, “there is one bird in the tree”. However, in Spanish, it is incorrect. According to Spanish grammar, the right way would be “there is a bird in the tree”. Using the number “one” --> “uno” is a common mistake among beginners. Instead, you must use an indeterminate article “un/una” depends on the gender of the noun.
“Hay un pájaro en el árbol”.
“Hay una botella sobre el escritorio”.
Here are more useful examples,
The verb “haber” also can be used with adjectives of quantity that we already studied in the previous lesson, “mucho”, “poco” and “suficiente”.
Look at the image below and I’m sure you will understand without any explanation.
Asking for existence
Since you already know how to express existence in Spanish, it is time to learn how to ask for existence. So, it is necessary to introduce some new words,
“Algún” “alguna” are used to ask for existence, while “ningún” and “ninguna” are used to answer in a negative way.
If the previous way looks difficult for you, there is one more way to ask about existence in Spanish which in my opinion is easier. However, keep in mind that a native speaker may use any of these two way. Therefore, would be convenient to get familiar with both way.
Here is the second alternative,
As you saw above, “algún”, “alguna”, “ningún” and “ninguna” have disappeared. Instead, we ask for existence in a plural form (¿hay baños?), and we answer in a plural form as well, (No, no hay baños). Moreover, in this case, we negate only twice since the words “ningún” and “ninguna” are not used.
Let’s see some examples you may use if someday you visit un in Latin America or Spain.
A: Hola, buenos días.
¿Hay algún asiento disponible en el autobús?
A: Sí, hay muchos asientos disponibles.
B: Muchas gracias.
A: De nada.
A: Hola, buenas tardes.
¿tiene algún mapa de la ciudad?
B: No, no tengo ninguno, pero en la alcaldía hay mapas disponibles para los turistas.
A: ¿Son gratis?
B: Sí, son gratis.
A: Muchas gracias. ¡Muy amable!
Note: “Gratis” means free of payment. Do not confuse “gratis” with “free” -> “freedom”.
La entrada es gratis. -> The entrance is free.
Entrada gratis. -> Free entrence.
Yo estoy libre hoy. -> I’m free today. (I have free time)
Yo soy libre. -> I’m free person. (It could be interpreted in many ways. For example, I used to be a prisoner of an oppressive system or company, I was in jail or I was a slave. Also, it could be a romantic way to say, I ended with a toxic relationship, or I finished a difficult task that was about to make me crazy).
Hay vs Estar
One of the common mistake among beginners is to confuse the verbs “hay” and “estar” when they ask for the location of a person, person, animal, thing, or place.
However, it could be easy to understand their correct use with a right explanation.
A good way to understand the difference between both verbs is looking at the table below.
The good news is that in Spanish we can combine both question into only one.
¿En dónde hay una panadería cerca de aquí?
A: Hay una panadería en el centro de estudiantes.
No, no hay ninguna panadería cerca de aquí.
In the question above, the speaker asks for both “existence and location” at the same time. If the listener answer, “hay una/unas/dos/tres/muchas panaderías…” it would be considered as a positive answer, while “No, no hay ninguna…” is considered as a negative one.
The table below would be enough to understand the meaning of “cuánto(s)”. As you will see the Spanish grammar is very repetitive. Countable, uncountable, feminine, and masculine.
Since the best way to learn a language is through examples and a lot practice, let’s see some questions and conversations.
Note: above, in the question number 8, you will find a notorious difference between Spanish and English. In Spanish, the way we ask is, “¿Cuántos días tiene este mes?” à “How many days does this month have?” translation that could make sense for you. However, as you already know they right way in English would be, “How many days are there in this week?”.
Additionally, in the question number 9, you will find another important difference between both languages. As I already taught you in the previous lesson, we are not the age, we have it. Therefore, when we ask for people age, we do not ask, “How old are you?”; Instead, we ask, “How many years (age) do you have?”.
A: Hola, mucho gusto. Mi nombre es Fabiola.
B: Hola, mucho gusto Sergio. Yo soy Sergio.
A: ¿Cuántos años tienes Sergio?
B: Yo tengo quince años. ¿Y tú?
A: Yo tengo 17 años.
A: Víctor, ¿Tienes dinero?
B: Sí, un poco.
A: ¿Cuánto dinero tienes?
B: Veinte dólares.
A: Es suficiente.
Here I would like to make a parenthesis to explain an important topic about Spanish. You can click here to see the explanation or you can comeback at this point after finishing this lesson.
Asking for prices in Spanish and English is slightly different. In English, people ask,
“How much is something?”
while in Spanish the question is the followed,
“How much cost something?”.
Let’s see some examples,