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I understand that each refers to a place where neither the speaker nor the listener are. But Im just wondering what the difference is?

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    Hi Jim, and welcome to Portuguese SE. Could you tell us why looking them up in a dictionary fails to answer your question? "Lá" is "there", "acolá" is "yonder", and "além" is "beyond".
    – stafusa
    May 4 at 8:32
  • @stafusa Hi, thanks. Looking in the dictionary fails to answer the question because while the dictionary does define Além as "beyond" (as with many Portuguese words) it isnt the only definition. And another one is "there". "Vou estar além, adoro estes." or "Quando chegámos, mandei-te sentar além." are phrases the dictionary provides for além meaning "there" and not "beyond" but doesnt give any indication of how it is different to "lá"
    – Jim stoke
    May 5 at 19:09
  • @stafusa And disregarding the fact that the dictionary states "there" and "yonder" as a translation for acolá and not just yonder , "the distinction between yonder and there is that 'yonder' is somewhere distant from both the speaker and the 'spoken to' whereas 'there' just means somewhere distant from the speaker" and that doesnt hold true for acolá and lá, because both of them must be away from the speaker and spoken to and so there must be another difference as the difference between "there" and "yonder" doesnt explain the difference between "lá" and "acolá"
    – Jim stoke
    May 5 at 19:13
  • and so there is, as so often no a satisfactory English translation for these words that sufficiently does them justice and highlights their differences
    – Jim stoke
    May 5 at 19:16
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    Ok, Jim, I see what you mean and I guess that, if inspired, someone could write a small essay on their meanings and the subtle differences between them. FWIW, I'd say that, for the most part, "beyond" really captures well the meaning of "além" in this context, at least in pt-BR ("mandei-te sentar além" is certainly pt-PT), and "acolá", which is rarely used, is essentially a synonym of "lá", except perhaps by expressing a somewhat larger distance.
    – stafusa
    May 6 at 11:15
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Lá, além and acolá can all be used to refer a place that’s not where the speaker and the listner are, but in my experience acolá and além (in this sense) are used, like ali, to point or direct to places (exophoric use), whereas is used to refer to the place you've mentioned before (anaphoric use). Now I am from Portugal, so I can speak confidently about European Portuguese only. I found the usages I describe below backed up by examples from Brazilian speakers, but there may be more to it that I do not know. But this is an old question without answer, so here it goes.

, but not além or acolá, is used to refer to the place that has just been mentioned:

Passei ontem em casa da Ana. O Bruno estava .

Vivi uns anos em Inglaterra. Foi que conheci a Joana.

Ana: Tens ido ao escritório, Bruno?
Bruno: Venho agora de . / Vou agora para . / Passei ontem por .

It can also be added for emphasis just before you mention a place. Here it can be omitted without changing the basic meaning of the sentence; it just emphasises that the place is not next to you:

em Inglaterra bebe-se muito mais cerveja do que aqui em Portugal.

O João foi para a casa da Ana.

Acolá, além and ali, but not usually , can be used to refer to a place you’re pointing to or otherwise indicating, say, by looking at it. Say, you could point or turn your head towards the place and say, o João está ali/acolá/além. Acolá and especially além suggest a greater distance. But acolá is not much used, and além (in this sense) is even less. The word you normally use for this purpose is ali. Além sounds a bit more familiar to me when it comes with a further indication to help locate the place:

Foi ali/acolá/além, ao pé daquela árvore, que eu achei o relógio.

I searched the net, and nearly all examples I found of this usage of além are from Portugal. Perhaps it was more common in Brazil in former times. Here’s an example from Brazilian writer Aluísio Azevedo (1857 – 1913):

Olha! Não vês além, junto daquelas colunas, como aqueles dois se beijam?

Aulete dictionary (entry 2) has a similar example from another, even earlier, Brazilian writer.

This usage of acolá is not that common either, but I could find a few examples from more recent Brazilian writers, like “Acolá, juto à porta” (2001) or “Pode acupá aquela mesa acolá!” (1966). Far more common is the use in expressions like aqui e acolá (’here and there’).

You already know além can mean ’beyond’, which the other words don’t. And I’ve not covered all possible usages; just the most common ones in my experience. Especially and ali are very versatile. This other question addresses the use of ali to refer to a place you’ve mentioned, not one you’re pointing to.

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  • «Acolá, além and ali, but not usually lá, can be used to refer to a place you’re pointing to or otherwise indicating, say, by looking at it.» That is true, you can say o carro está estacionado além/acolá not , but you can say o carro está estacionado lá/além/acolá ao fundo.
    – Artefacto
    Sep 27 at 10:42
  • @Artefacto, true, and ele vem lá ao longe, quem vem lá?; and of a place and church out of sight you can say fica ali/lá ao pé da igreja. Hence my disclaimer at the end.
    – Jacinto
    Sep 27 at 11:18
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My answer is based on my life experiencie only (as brazillian). But this may provide you an insight.

From my experience, usually refers to either a place close to both speaker and listener, or to a very far away place from them. Example:

O livro tá lá na sala

Can be used even if the living room is near.

Comprei esta canenca lá na Alemanha

Used even if Alemanha is far away.

The word is very common. It's one of the word you need to know about to understand portuguese.

além

além can mean a place after another.

a vila fica além das montanhas.

So, there are mountains, and somewhere after the mountains, there is the village.

it can also mean a very far away place if used with some language expressions

o arco-íris se põe além do horizonte

The horizonte is the farest place you can see (literally). So, além do horizonte means a far away place.

acolá

I've never heard anybody saiying that in any context other than reading poems or old literature books back in school. Even my grandparents don't say it. It seems to me that acolá has nearly the same meaning of , but I'm unsure. If you gotta say acolá, it may sound weird

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    Thank you for the answer, but you don't answer the question. You are wrongly generalizing acolá, since where I live it is not weird nor literary, though not extremely common; most importantly, you didn't say its meaning. None of your examples shows the use of "lá" as close to both speakers, nor it agrees with the dictionaries. The difference between yours and Jacinto's answer is that he answered with facts, he treated his opinions as facts of what he saw or thinks, understanding their limitations, and used fonts. You wrote an opinion, and generalized it to more than you know.
    – Schilive
    Sep 25 at 22:07
  • Summing up, it's an opinion, not an answer. But, don't get me wrong, blackyellow, you are welcome to Portuguese StackExchange! Thanks for contribution.
    – Schilive
    Sep 25 at 22:08
  • Thanks for the constructive critique @Schilive. I appreciate it and will follow the guidelines before posting a new answer Sep 25 at 22:31
  • blackyellow, I don't if what I said is in the guidelines. I am not an authority.
    – Schilive
    Sep 25 at 23:05

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