In English, we use the adverb here to describe the location of something close to us, and we use the adverb there to describe the location of something further away.
In Italian, there are four different adverbs that serve the same purpose: qui vs qua (the equivalents of here) and lì vs là (the equivalents of there).
What Are the Differences?
According to various Italian grammar books, qui and lì are used to indicate a precise location, whereas qua and là are more of an approximation.
- Ho messo la tazza qui sul tavolo. (I put the cup here on the table.)
- Ho messo le mie scarpe lì sul pavimento. (I put my shoes there on the floor.)
These sentences are likely referring to specific spots on the table and the floor.
- Ho messo la tazza qua sul tavolo. (I put the cup here on the table.)
- Ho messo le mie scarpe là sul pavimento. (I put my shoes there on the floor.)
Whereas these sentences indicate the objects could have been put anywhere on the table and the floor.
What About Spoken Italian?
The truth is that in spoken Italian, people usually don’t differentiate between qui and qua and lì and là. If used in an imprecise manner, it is likely that nobody would take notice.
However, additional descriptive words and phrases are sometimes included in spoken Italian to specify the location of an object.
- Ho messo la tazza proprio [ qui / qua ]! (I put the cup right here!)
- Ho messo le mie scarpe proprio [ lì / là ]! (I put my shoes right there!)
Common Italian Expressions with Qui and Qua
- vieni [ qui / qua ] (come here)
- mettilo [ qui / qua ] (put it here)
- [ qua / qui ] dentro (in here)
- [ qua / qui ] sotto (under here)
Common Italian Expressions with Lì and Là
- mettilo [ là / lì ] (put it there)
- là dentro (in there)
- là fuori (out there)
- là sopra (up there)
- là sotto (under there)
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