I asked my coworker to fix something in a program. When he fixed it, he replied with, "I already fixed it." -- this wasn't intentionally misleading, but was an incorrect translation of "ya". But for a moment I was thinking... "no, you fixed it after I asked". It was a bit jarring.

Having learned a decent bit of Spanish when I was younger, I paused and realized there was some confusion when translating between "ya" and "already".

BUT...I really struggled to find a clear/cogent explanation to help my coworker--from my English perspective. I finally found an article in Spanish, but honestly it was crazy how many meanings of "ya" there were, many of which I hadn't realized, and it was slow-going to read through it and make sense of it. My Spanish skills are rusty. So nobody else whose primary language was English was likely to realize what happened, had they seen this mistake

So, here's my question: How can I help both the ESL coworker, other coworkers, and others in general to be aware of this pitfall, and what is a kind, cogent, and English-centric way to explain it?


  • Secondary question: And are there blogs/references or sites where I can learn more patterns of this sort of mis-translation across many languages? As a privileged white guy from a homogenous suburbia in the USA, I probably have a number of ways I might misunderstand cultural differences, and likely need to improve my awareness bit by bit.
  • Ya is awfully close to English "right now". It's idioms that do it for me; Ya vengo, literally 'I already go' really means "I'll be right back". Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 14:48
  • 1
    It's not clear what the question is. Are you saying that Spanish would use "ya" in all 3 cases?
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 20:31
  • 1
    Note that "just" can also be used to mean "only". "I just took out the trash (but not the recycling)."
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 20:32
  • Although in English, "already" can colloquially mean "right now" if not "in near the future". See this question.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 8:39
  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because this is better suited for Language Learning
    – livresque
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 23:57


Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.