The Differences Between Haber and Estar

CONTENT
  1. Reviewing Haber
  2. Reviewing Estar
  3. Estar vs. Haber - Differences in Use
  4. Estar vs. Haber differences in Form

Do you know the difference between ¿Dónde está el cine? and ¿Dónde hay un cine? Haber and estar both mean that something exists, but they cannot be used interchangeably. In this article, let's discover their differences in more depth.

Native

Translation

Hay un cine en el pueblo. El cine está en la avenida principal.

There is a movie theater in town. The cinema is on the main avenue.

Reviewing Haber

Usage

Rule 1. Haber is used to talk about the existence of something or that we have something. It is very similar in use to there is and there are in English.

Native

Translation

Hay unos niños en el parque.

There are some children in the park.

Form

Rule 2. Hay is placed at the beginning of the sentence, and is always accompanied by either an indefinite article, a numeral, or an indefinite pronoun.

Native

Translation

Hay trescientas personas en el estadio.

There are three hundred people in the stadium.

Hay algo en el closet.

There is something in the closet.

Reviewing Estar

Usage

Rule 3. The verb estar has many functions, but the one that contrasts most with the verb haber is that of indicating location. In English, it is very similar to the verb to be.

Native

Translation

La barbería está a lado del cine.

The barbershop is next to the movie theater.

Form

Rule 4. When the verb estar is used in a sentence, it goes as follows: the subject, the verb estar, and the rest of the sentence - in this case, the place where the thing we are talking about is located.

SubjectVerb EstarLocation or Place
El cine está en el centro.
The movie theater is in downtown.

Estar vs. Haber - Differences in Use

It is clear that the two verbs are used in very different ways. However, they still can be challenging for English speakers learning French - so how to learn which one to use when?

Let's go back to the example we used in the introduction of this article.

Native

Translation

¿Dónde está el cine?

Where is the cinema?

¿Dónde hay un cine?

Where is there a cinema?

Rule 5. When estar is used, the sentence is more specific. In this case, it is understood that one knows which movie theater we are talking about. While in the case of hay, it is understood that one is only asking if there are any cinemas around.

Rule 6. Another clue is the use of definite vs. indefinite articles. Since estar is more specific, this verb requires the use of a definite article which, as you may have already studied, is used when the noun they accompany has already been mentioned or is known. On the other hand, hay requires the use of an indefinite article (or other indefinite words) because it is more ambiguous.

Estar vs. Haber differences in Form

Rule 7. The biggest difference between these two verbs is that haber is invariable, which means it does not change in gender or number regardless of the noun that accompanies it. In contrast, estar must be modified in number according to its noun.

Native

Translation

Hay muchas personas en este lugar.

Hay una persona en este lugar.

There are many people in this place.

There is one person in this place.

Las personas están en el lugar.

La persona está en el lugar.

People are in the place.

The person is in the place.

Also, hay is always placed before the subject while estar is more commonly positioned after the subject.

CorrectIncorrect
Hay unas plantas en el jardín. Unas plantas hay en el jardín.

Quiz

1/3

En la sala del cine ___________ unas personas.

0

correct answers.