Why ‘Ahorita’ in Spanish Almost Never Means ‘Now’
Ahorita is for the Mexicans like the letter ñ is for the Spaniards.
What you immediately want to translate as “now” almost never means “now.” At least not for the Mexicans. However, other countries in Latin America also have a very peculiar relationship with this concept.
Ahorita is a fascinating word with layers of meaning within it depending on context and also the region the speakers are in.
If you want to understand the fickle time approach of Spanish-speaking people, keep reading, and your interpretation of “now” will never be the same!
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What Does ‘Ahorita’ Mean?
If you look for the exact meaning in Diccionario de Americanismos (Dictionary of Americanisms), you’ll get a very detailed description according to each Latin American country.
Let me simplify it a bit here.
To say that ahorita has a double meaning is not doing justice to this word.
Let me show you possible translations.
Ahorita in English can mean:
- now, right now
- right away, immediately
- whenever I get around to it
- in the recent past
If I wanted to show it on a timeline, it would look like this:
Let’s go over some example sentences and situations for each meaning.
1. Ahorita – Now, Right Now
Frankly speaking, this is the least frequent use of ahorita.
People prefer to use ahora to speak about things they do now, but I will explain more later. However, you may still hear people in Mexico or Guatemala using it the following way.
Ahorita tenemos dinero, pero no por mucho tiempo más.
We have money now, but not for much longer.
¿Cómo está el clima ahorita?
How is the weather right now?
Ahorita me va muy bien.
Right now, it’s going very well.
2. Ahorita – Right Away, Immediately
This one is more common.
When somebody says ahorita, it might mean “immediately” and “right away.”
Ahorita le traigo el menú señor.
I’ll bring you the menu right away, sir.
Ahorita te muestro. Espera.
I’ll show you right away. Wait.
Un minuto, ahorita voy.
One minute, I’ll be right there.
3. Ahorita – Soon & 4. Ahorita – Whenever I Get Around To It
#3 and #4 get squeezed together because now we’re treading the unknown land.
Ahorita can mean in 5 minutes, in 10, in an hour or two, or whenever the speaker feels like it.
To be honest, you can never be sure. You can only hope that this time it means sooner than later.
¿Cuándo lo harás? Ahorita.
When will you do it? In a while.
Ahorita te llamo.
I’ll call you in a moment (or a bit later).
Lo hago ahorita. Déjame descansar un rato.
I’ll do it in a while. Let me rest a little.
You can also check Ahorita by Carlos Sadness, a song that talks about a person that is never in a hurry:
Debe ser que nunca tienes prisa
Siempre estás diciéndome: ahorita voy
Ahorita voy, ahorita vengo
Te esperé hasta el final del día
Me crecieron en el pelo margaritas
Voy, ahorita voy, ahorita vengo. (…)
It must be that you are never in a hurry
You are always telling me
I am coming now
Coming right now, coming right now
I waited for you until the end of the day
I grew daisies in my hair
I’m coming, coming right now, coming right now (…)
5. Ahorita – Never
The norms of politeness in Latin America make a simple “no” seem extremely rude.
The Mexicans, for example, will never tell you they will not come or do something.
Instead, you may hear ahorita.
Sí señor, ahorita le pregunto al director.
Yes, sir, I will ask the director right away.
Sí, ahorita se lo envío.
Yes, I’ll send it to him right away.
-¡Amor, haz la cama!
-Sí mamá, ahorita.
-Make the bed, honey!
-Yes, Mom, right away.
You can think of the “I’ll call you right back meme,” and you’ll understand what I mean.
6. Ahorita – In The Recent Past
This ahorita may seem even more bizarre, but in Cuba, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, people use it to talk about the recent past.
It’s a synonym for hace rato.
Ahorita la vi yendo al mercado, a lo mejor la alcanzas.
I just saw her going to the market. Maybe you can catch her.
Me acaban de asaltar ahorita.
I just got mugged.
And one more thing, did you know that ahorita can get shortened to ‘horita and ‘orita in Spanish slang?
Ahora, Ahorita, Ahoritita
According to the Dictionary of Americanisms I mentioned before, these three words in Spanish are not synonyms.
Ahora means “today, in the present day.”
Ahora somos amigos.
Now we are friends.
Ahorita is most often used to mean “in a moment, later on.”
-¿Lo puedes hacer?
-Can you do it?
-Yes, in a moment.
Ahoritita means “right now.”
Ahoritita lo hago.
I’ll do it right now.
Sometimes when somebody answers ahorita, the other person might reply, “Bueno, pero ahoritita, ahorititita,” to urge immediate action.
-Juan, ¿puedes poner la mesa?
-Bueno, pero ahoritita, ahorititita
-Juan, can you set the table?
-But, right now, right now.
This specific distinction between ahora, ahorita, and ahoritita is especially strong in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Honduras, and Salvador.
And What About ahoritica?
In countries like Cuba or Colombia, the word ahora has two diminutives (-tita and -tica).
In Colombia, ahoritica means “right now”:
Ahoritica se lo hacemos, señor.
We’ll do it right now, sir.
While in Cuba, ahoritica also refers to this undefined future:
Me dijo que ahoritica me llamaba.
He told me he was going to call me in a moment.
Still, the same as with ahora, ahorita, and ahoritita, you need to know the context to guess what the speaker might be saying.
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And Ahorita, It’s Practice Time!
Are you going to start using ahorita in your conversations sooner than later?
I hope so!
According to CNN, 41 million native Spanish speakers in the U.S. speak Spanish in their homes, so you shouldn’t have problems finding friends with whom you can use this word in natural conversations.
If you’re not able to talk to a native speaker, instead create sentences and imaginary conversations in your head and add ahora, ahorita, ahoritica, and other useful time expressions.
If you’re ready to practice in real-time with a teacher, sign up now for a free trial class at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Let our friendly and professional teachers from Guatemala help you reach your fluency goals and use ahorita in Spanish in a 1-to-1 conversation!
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