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Published on: Grammar Bites

Master the uses of ‘ya’ and ‘todavía’

Getting the hang of ‘ya’ and ‘todavía’ can be tricky if we try to think of their equivalents in English, but if we focus on their uses it becomes much clearer.

1. Ya

This adverb is used in affirmative sentences and usually appears at the beginning of the sentence. The subject is then moved to a position after the verb.

a) It is used to show something that is known about before the moment of saying it:

  • – ¿Tienes las llaves? Do you have the keys?
  • – Ya las tengo. I already got them.

b) Ya is also used to confirm that an action has already taken place:

  • – ¿Ordenaste tu habitación? Did you clean up your room?
  • – Ya lo hice. I already did it. 
2. Ya no

It is used to refer to something that has stopped:

  • Ya no fumo. Lo he dejado. I don’t smoke anymore. I’ve stopped.
3. Todavía

We use it to show that a previous action or situation is continuing:

  • Todavía sigue enfadada con Javier. She’s still mad at Javier.
4. Todavía no

a) We use it to express that something that should have or could have happened by the moment of utterance still hasn’t occurred:

  • – ¿Ya está llegó el tren? Has the train arrived already?
  • – Todavía no. Está retrasao. Not yet. It’s delayed.

b) Todavía no can also appear in questions. In this case todavía no indicates that the speaker thinks that something should have already happened but is afraid that it hasn’t yet:

  • – ¿Todavía no te has hecho la tarea? (Se supone que la tarea debería estar hecha.)
  • – You still haven’t completed your homework? (The speaker thinks that the homework should have already been completed).
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