The real meaning and usage of “Ahorita” in Mexico

Most of the content I’ve read on the internet defines “ahorita” as a mysterious word, with meanings ranging from “in a little while”, “in a minute”, “in an hour” to “never”. The truth is that “ahorita” is a complex word with diverse meanings depending on the context.

“Right after I finish doing what I’m currently doing, but maybe I’ll forget, so if after a while I haven’t done it yet, ask me again”. This is possibly the best definition of “ahorita” I’ve came up with.

Today while taking a shower I came up with the following definitions, which I think are more accurate to the native Mexican usage.

When asking someone to do something

In this case it means “right now”. May sound like an imposition.

Hazlo ahorita por favor. (Do it right now, please)
Ve ahorita. (Go right now).
Tráigamelo ahorita por favor. (Bring it to me right now, please).

To inform someone that something will happen soon

In this case the person using “ahorita” is not replying to someone, but rather informing him/her of a situation which is scheduled to happen soon. The meaning of “ahorita” in this context is the same as “enseguida”.

Ahorita vengo. (I’ll be right back)
Ahorita le tomo la orden. (I’ll take your order in a moment)

When used as a time estimate response

This might be the most enigmatic usage of “ahorita”, and for a good reason. In my experience “ahorita” may mean one of the following, depending on the context:

  • “Right after I finish doing what I’m currently doing, but maybe I’ll forget, so if after a while I haven’t done it yet, ask me again”. This is possibly the best definition of “ahorita” I’ve came up with. In this case, “ahorita” is sometimes used interchangeably with “al rato” or “al ratito”.
  • “Ahorita” also means that the person who is using it is not considering the task his/her top priority in this moment, so when dealing with important and/or time sensitive stuff, be sure to make this person give you an actual time estimate.
  • When used on its own, without anything else in the sentence, can also be a polite way of saying “not right now”.
  • When the person says “ahorita” without looking at your face, without any interest in what you’re saying, pronouncing with a shallow and monotonic voice, “ahorita” will most certainly mean “I’m actually ignoring you”.

Person 1:  José, ¿podrías pasar con el abogado para recoger los papeles de la fianza, por favor? (Jose, could you stop by the lawyer’s to pick up the bail paperwork, please?)
José:  Ahorita paso –or– Al ratito paso (“I will go right after I finish doing what I’m currently doing, but maybe I’ll forget, so if after a while I haven’t done it yet, ask me again”).

Given the previous example, how could we make sure José actually goes to pick up the paperwork? (words in brackets are optional, or variants of the phrase).

Polite

  • ¿[Como] a qué hora podrías pasar? (At what time could you go?)
  • ¿Como en cuánto tiempo? (Literally: How much time will pass?)
  • [Que] por favor no se te olvide [, ya que (add large explanation here)]. (Please make sure you go, because…).
  • [Que] no se te vaya a olvidar, por favor.
  • Que no se te pase de las 4:00 de la tarde, por favor.
  • Que no se te olvide hacerlo antes de que llegue Miguel, por favor.

Medium

  • ¿“Ahorita” ahorita, o “ahorita” al rato?” (“Ahorita” right now, or “Ahorita” later?)
  • Que no se te olvide. (Make sure you go).

Strong

In these cases the body language and voice tone will set the tone of the phrase, it could be perceived as humorous, rude or dominant:

  • ¡[Pero] ahorita es ahorita [, eh]! ([But] right now is right now!)
  • ¡Pero ahorita [, eh]! (But right now [, huh]!).
Special cases

Ahorita no. (Not right now)
Used to tell people that you are not interested or not willing right now, semi-politely.

Stoplight beggar: ¿Gusta cooperar para la __________? (Do you wish to cooperate for ___________?)
Person 1: Ahorita no joven, gracias. (Not right now, thank you.)

Ya, ahorita [verb].
Often used to say that something shouldn’t take too much time.

P1: ¿Y cuándo llega el doctor? (And when will the doctor arrive?)
P2: Ya, ahorita llega [, no ha de tardar]. (He will arrive soon [, it shouldn’t take much time now].)

Shorter time span “Ahoritita”

When adding additional ti to ahorita, the perceived time value will be shorter, which means that “ahorita” takes longer than “ahoritita”.