David vs Goliath, Cleopatra vs Cicero, Achilles vs Hector… legends and history are full of antagonisms. Opposite words are called antonyms, the Yin-Yang of linguistics. They are usually easy to use: we just need to choose one or the other: simple like that.
However, our students on www.spanishviaskype.com eventually find some pairs that can pose a problem. I like to name them enemigos íntimos (intimate enemies). Today we’ll try to clarify the differences between two of them: ya and todavía. ¿Todavía quieres seguir leyendo sobre este tema? Hazlo ya (Do you still want to keep reading about this topic? Do it now).
We use ya for:
Finished actions and lived experiences: they are commonly used with the pretérito perfecto (present perfect), or pretérito indefinido (past simple) in some regions (America and north of Spain). So, we can translate it to English using:
- Already: for affirmative sentences. Ya he comido, así que podemos continuar trabajando (I’ve already eaten, so we can keep working).
- Yet: for interrogative ones. ¿Has hecho tus deberes ya? (have you done your homeworks yet?).
- Ever: for questions about experiences). ¿Ya has viajado a Argentina? Sí, ya he estado allí. (Have you ever travelled to Argentina? Yes, I’ve already been there).
An action that must be completed at the moment we are speaking:
- (Right) Now: Quiero comer ya (I want to eat now).
We use todavía for:
Not completed actions or experiences but with an intention to complete them in the future: they are also formed with the pretérito perfecto (present perfect). These are possible translations:
- Yet: for negative sentences. Todavía no he visto la Catedral de Santiago (I’ve not seen Santiago Cathedral yet). It’s very used in short answers for a question with ya: ¿Ya has hablado con tu hermano? Todavía no. (Have you already talked with your brother? Not yet.).
An action that started in the past and continues in the present:
- Still: for affirmative and interrogative sentences. ¿Todavía tienes el libro que te presté? Sí, todavía lo tengo. (Do you still have the book I lent to you? Yes, I still have it).
These are the main differences between these two enemigos íntimos. However, This is not the first time we talk about ya. In this article you can find other idioms and uses for this word.
Well, ¿ya has decidido aprender español por Skype? (have you decided to learn Spanish via Skype?). If the answer is todavía no (not yet), what are you waiting for? ¡Reserva una clase de prueba gratis ya! (Reserve a free trial lesson right now!).