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Spanish Usage Questions: How to Say "Ahead"

By Eric W. Vogt

When going from English to Spanish, usage questions involve an understanding of the nuances of the source language and the consequences they have on choices in the target language.

Sorting it Out

A quick look in a bilingual dictionary will reveal that there are a number of translations of the word ahead in Spanish. However, unless you are an astute user of the dictionary and understand what the consequences are when you use it as an adjective or an adverb or if you need a clause, you can get yourself into trouble. It's opposite is atrás -- another word that can cause problems.

Let's take a look, one-by-one, at the possible solutions, with examples and translations, of how ahead. The word ahead can be translated as adelante. When it is used as an adverb, it means up ahead or farther ahead, in space (like a highway sign telling you there is work ahead), or forward and onward. In the following two examples, notice how it modifies the verbs:

Hay mucho que hacer, enotnces tenemos que seguir adelante (There is much to do, so we have to keep moving ahead).

La casa se encuentra un poco más adelante (The house is a little farther up ahead).

As an adjective, the word ahead translates as a past participle of the verb adelantar (meaning to go or move forward, in the sense of pushing ahead of schedule, for instance). When said of a people, it shows they are advanced (for their age, for instance). Note that it must agree with the noun it modifies, showing that it is, in fact, an adjective and not an adverb:

Este cronómetro anda adelantado (This chronometer is running fast/ahead).

Esa chica está muy adelantada para una niña de cinco años (That girl is very advanced for a five-year-old).

Finally, it may be part of a comparative, in which case adelante or adelantado have to be incorporated into a comparative construction using que (meaning, in this case, than). Note too that there are other translations of ahead in this case, such as delante de:

Estos chicos están más adelantados que los otros (These kids are more advanced than the others).

Esa niña camina delante del grupo (That girl is walking ahead of the group).

Este experimento va menos adelantado que el otro (This experiment is less advanced/farther along than the other).