The Simple Difference Between Donde and Adonde
“Where” is an important word in any language. Donde and adonde generally mean the same thing (“where”), but sometimes one should be used instead of the other.
Their meanings also change depending on whether they have an accent mark or not. Learning the difference between donde and adonde is actually simple! Keep reading to find out how to use these Spanish words correctly.
Difference between donde and adonde
The word adonde is a fusion of the words a + donde. The preposition a indicates movement or destination while donde describes a place or location. The main difference between the two words is that one adds the element of movement (adonde) and the other simply refers to a place (donde).
Simply put, adonde loosely translates as “to where,” and donde can mean “where,” “which,” and “in which,” depending on the context of the sentence it’s in.
Most Spanish-speaking countries will have varying degrees of flexibility in their rules on how to use these two words. If you learn the basic rules and formula, then you can hope to use them correctly at all times.
Now, let’s jump in and see the differences between donde and adonde in detail!
RAE (Real Academia Española) describes donde as a relative pronoun that modifies a noun or noun phrase.. More specifically, donde refers to information that’s in relation to a place (which is a noun). However, while it generally translates to “where” in English, it can also mean “which” or “in which,” as you’ll see in the following examples:
- Aquí está el terreno donde construyeron su casa. – Here’s the land where they built their house.
- ¿Viste el pozo donde tiramos monedas? – Did you see the well where we throw coins?
- Es más adelante del hospital donde nació mi hermana. – It’s further up from the hospital in which my sister was born.
Also, you use donde to refer to someone’s house or place without explicitly saying it, such as:
Iremos a comer donde mi hermana. — We’re going to eat at my sister’s (place).
Do you want more details about relative pronouns in Spanish? Check out our simple and direct explanation on How to Use Relative Pronouns in Spanish.
As you’ve likely seen while learning Spanish, donde can be preceded by prepositions (a, de, desde, por) which slightly modify its meaning. Keep these facts in mind:
- a donde and adonde are used interchangeably
- de donde means “from where” and “where”
- desde donde means “from where,” “where,” “and from there,” and “from which”
- en donde means “where” and “in which,” and refers to a static destination or experience
- por donde means “through,” “which way,” and “whichever”
Here are some examples:
- Estoy orgulloso del lugar de donde vengo. — I’m proud of the place (where) I come from.
- Asegúrate de dejar el fólder en donde el contador pueda encontrarlo. — Make sure to leave the folder where the accountant can find it.
- Disfruto los momentos en donde soy el centro de atención. — I enjoy moments where I’m the center of attention.
- Puedes dejar tu mochila donde sea. — You can leave your backpack wherever.
RAE tells us dónde is an interrogative adverb that modifies the verb and refers to a place in question. Dónde is always used in sentences that are interrogative and it can be preceded by the same prepositions as donde (a, de, desde, en, por).
- ¿En dónde conociste a tu pareja? — Where did you meet your significant other?
- ¿Por dónde dejaste tu mochila? — Where did you leave your backpack?
- ¿De dónde eres? — Where are you from?
- ¿Desde dónde debo comenzar a correr? — From where should I start running?
In addition to questions, dónde also has an accent mark when it refers to an unknown destination at the end of a subordinate clause:
Con gusto paso a recoger tu paquete, sólo dime dónde. — I’ll gladly pick up your package, just tell me where.
Since having a subordinate clause is not essential, dónde can stand by itself as a single worded sentence:
¿Dónde? — Where?
Here are a few other examples:
- ¿Dónde está mi libro de español? — Where is my Spanish book?
- ¡Mira dónde fuiste a parar! — Look where you ended up being!
- No sé dónde está mi oso de peluche — I don’t know where my teddy bear is.
- No sé dónde prefieres almorzar. — I don’t know where you prefer to have lunch.
Dónde is used in specific cases that don’t appear interrogative, but act in line with “the nature of a question.” While reading in Spanish, you’ll likely run across the following:
- según dónde (according to where)
- depender de dónde (depending on where)
- independientemente de dónde (regardless of where)
See these examples in action with the following sentences:
- Los pinzones de Darwin tienen distintos picos según dónde se encuentran. — Darwin’s finches have different beaks according to where they’re found.
- Iremos por helado dependiendo de dónde estemos después de comer. — We’ll go for icecream depending on where we are after eating.
- Independientemente de dónde lo hizo, su crimen es penado por la ley. — Regardless of where he did it, his crime is punished by law.
Alternating between donde and dónde
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter whether you put an accent or not. This happens when you have a subordinate clause followed by an infinitive verb that’s preceded by the verbs haber or tener. Here’s a simpler way to understand this:
Start of sentence + Haber (conjugated) + dónde/donde + infinitive verb
Start of sentence + Tener (conjugated) + dónde/donde + infinitive verb
In such cases, the sentence is up for interpretation as either relative or interrogative, which allows flexibility between donde and dónde. Remember to pay attention to that infinitive verb! All of the following examples are correct ways of using dónde and donde.
- Me puse triste al saber que el gatito no tenía dónde ir. — I was sad when I knew the kitten had nowhere to go.
- Me puse triste al saber que el gatito no tenía donde ir. — I was sad when I knew the kitten had no place to go.
- No había dónde pedir comida a domicilio. — There was nowhere to ask for food delivery.
- No había donde pedir comida a domicilio. — There was no place to ask for food delivery.
Adonde is a relative adverb that refers to a place in relation to movement. It is generally used to talk about someone’s home or used as a conjunction. As I mentioned, it can also be written separately as a donde.
It’s common to use ir + adonde, as in the following examples:
- Vamos a donde no haya ruido. — Let’s go where there’s no noise.
- Este sábado iremos adonde mis tíos. — This Saturday we’ll go to my uncle’s.
- Podemos ir adonde sea, estoy feliz pasando tiempo contigo. — We can go wherever, I’m happy to spend time with you.
Since this word has the preposition “a” implied in it, adonde and adónde should never have a preposition before them. It’s also incorrect to use it to describe a situation.
The following example is the INCORRECT way to use adonde:
- Vamos hacia adonde parqueaste el carro. — Let’s go to to where you parked the car.
In cases like these you should either remove the preposition, or use donde instead: Vamos hacia donde parqueaste el carro. — Let’s go to where you parked the car.
You probably guessed by now, that adónde is an interrogative or exclamatory adverb that refers to place in relation to movement. Movement here is key, since you’ll never hear someone using adónde without movement involved. Again, it can be written separately as a dónde.
- ¿A dónde crees que vas? — Where do you think you’re going?
- ¿Adónde está mi primo? — Where’s my cousin?
- ¡Mira adónde estamos, Los Andes son hermosos! — Look where we are, the Andes are beautiful!
- No sé a dónde piensas llevarme para nuestro aniversario. — I don’t know where you plan to take me for our anniversary.
Donde and Adonde Practice Quiz
- ¿________ fuiste anoche? (dónde / adónde / both)
- Escogeremos un restaurante dependiendo de ________ esté tu hotel. (donde / dónde / both)
- ¿Disculpe, ________ está la puerta 32 con destino a Dallas? (adónde / dónde / both)
- A veces me pregunto ________ dejé mi sueter favorito. (donde / dónde / both)
- Hay un salón de belleza en ________ te pintan el pelo de colores raros. (donde / dónde / both)
- No sé hacia ________ es la cafetería. (adónde / dónde / both)
- Más noche iré ________ brillan las luciérnagas. (adonde / adónde / both)
- Espero recuerdes el lugar ________ dejaste tus llaves. (donde / dónde / both)
- No recuerdo en ________ me quedé con mi historia. (dónde / adónde / both)
- Como soy un adulto, puedo ir ________ quiera. (donde / adonde / both)
The answer key is below!
¿A Dónde Vas Sin tu Clase Gratis?
Learning the difference between these words is a great introduction to intermediate Spanish, since it’s a nice balance between complexity and straightforwardness. Do you have any questions about donde and adonde that I didn’t answer? If so, leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you! If you’re ready to start speaking to a native Spanish speaker, book a free class with one of our certified, friendly Spanish teachers who will answer your questions and help you practice having fluent conversations. You can do it!
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