Ask any native to describe the differences between ya and todavía, and you’ll get the response: because it sounds right. Sounding right is definitely something good to stick by, but understanding the concept, then using it correctly, may be a little more important. Though ya and todavía are often misused, the idea behind these two adverbs is very simple. Take a look at our handy infographic to better understand the idea:
Already, still, now, yet, and anymore are all separate English words translated to ya and todavía in Spanish. Ya and todavía are adverbs that represent when an action happens. Either can be used to show progression between the past and the present. Instead of trying to match English words to Spanish words, think of the idea of change or continuity.
Ya — Indicates a change from the past to the present.
- El bebé ya camina. (The baby didn’t walk before, but now is walking – a change)
- Ana ya no vive aquí. (Ana used to live here, but doesn’t anymore – a change)
- ¿Ya estás aquí? (You weren’t here before, but I am asking if you are now – asking about a change)
Todavía — Indicates continuity from the past to the present.
- El bebé todavía no corre. (The baby didn’t run before, and still doesn’t – continuity)
- Ana todavía vive aquí. (Ana lived here before, and she still does – continuity)
- ¿Todavía estás aquí? (You were here before, and I am asking if you still are – continuity)
If you think of these two adverbs this way, you won’t make a mistake. Whether you’re asking a question, using negative or positive sentences, or using different tenses, you’ll get it right.
Lets use a sentence and compare the same sentence with both ya and todavía.
- Juan no trabaja conmigo. (Juan doesn’t work with me)
- Juan ya no trabaja conmigo (Juan doesn’t work with me anymore – a change)
- Juan todavía no trabaja conmigo (Juan still doesn’t work with me – continuity)
- I don’t live in California anymore.
- She still studies everyday.
- We don’t have a dog yet.
- They already need a new car.
- Has he arrived yet?
- Yo ya no vivo en California. (change)
- Ella todavía estudia cada día. (continuity)
- Nosotros todavía no tenemos un perro. (continuity)
- Ellos ya necesitan un carro nuevo. (change)
- ¿Ya llegó él? (asking about change)