Ir vs Irse: How To Stop Confusing Both Spanish Verbs

ir-vs-irse

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Do you sometimes confuse the Spanish verbs Ir v Irse?

The translation for each is actually very straight forward.

  • Ir = to go
  • Irse = to leave

Easy, right?

Let’s see both verbs in action.

  • You need to go to the hospital ASAP – Necesitas ir al hospital tan pronto como sea posible
  • I want to leave right now! – ¡Quiero irme ahora mismo!

In my experience, the main thing that seems to confuse Spanish students is the fact that Irse uses reflexive pronouns, while Ir does not.

A quick rule of thumb is that:

  • Ir is focused on the place where the subject is going
  • Irse emphasizes the fact that the subject leaves the place where they currently are

Additionally, both have their own nuances, which we’ll dive into with this blog post.

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The Spanish Verb Ir

The verb Ir is an irregular verb, and as already mentioned means “to go”

This verb doesn’t require the use of a reflexive pronoun but is commonly used with prepositions such: “a”, “al”, “hacia”, and “hasta”, in the same way that you would use “to go” in English.

Below is how it is conjugated in the simple present tense.

Personal Pronoun Simple Present Tense English Equivalent
Yo voy I go
vas You go
Él/Ella/Usted va He/She goes
Nosotros/Nosotras vamos We go
Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes van They go

Now, let’s see more examples of Ir being used in the simple present tense.

  • Daniela and Diego go to the gym every Monday – Daniela y Diego van al gimnasio cada lunes
  • Manuel has taken flight that goes to Costa Rica – Manuel ha tomado un vuelo que va hacia Costa Rica
  • Isabel and I always go to work by bus –  Isabel y yo siempre vamos hasta el trabajo en autobús
  • Are you going to your home on foot? – ¿Vas a pie hasta tu casa?

Now is a good time to mention the Voy a Hack, which enables you to use the verb Ir to speak in the future, without learning the actual future tense (e.g. I’m going to + action).

The simple formula for this hack is: Ir (simple present tense) + a + Infinitive action verb.

For example:

  • They are going to paint the house next week – Ellos van a pintar la casa la semana que viene
  • We are going to have dinner at 7 o’clock at Francisco’s place – Vamos a cenar en la casa de Francisco a las 7 de la noche
  • Are you going to buy that shirt? Because it’s hideous! – ¿Vas a comprar esa camisa? ¡Es espantosa!

The Spanish Verb Irse

As you know by now, the verb Irse has the opposite meaning of Ir, as it means “to leave”.

Irse is a strange verb, in that it is not considered a “reflexive” verb, but still requires the use of a reflexive pronoun, in addition to prepositions, such as: “a” or “de”.

Let’s see how it’s conjugated.

Reflexive Pronoun Simple Present Tense English Equivalent
Me voy I leave – go away
Te vas You leave – go away
Se va He/she leaves – goes away
Nos vamos We leave – go away
Se van They leave – go away

Now, some examples:

  • I left before 7 because it was getting dark –  Me fui antes de las 7 porque estaba oscureciendo
  • Why is Gissel leaving so soon? The party has just started – ¿Por qué Gissel se va tan pronto? La fiesta apenas comienza
  • I’m going away to the beach next weekend. Shall we go? – Me voy a la playa el próximo fin de semana. ¿Vamos?
  • Alicia and Claudia are going away to London soon, because they plan to study English there – Alicia y Claudia se van pronto a Londres porque planean estudiar inglés allí

A little tidbit you may notice when speaking with native speakers is that when Irse directly follows another verb, native speakers will normally place the reflexive pronoun before the first action verb (as opposed to after the Ir conjugation).

This is particularly common when the main action verb is one of the below:

  • Querer (to want)
  • Deber (must)
  • Tener que (to have to)
  • Necesitar (need)
  • Ir a – expressing future (to go to)

It should be noted that both placing the reflexive pronoun before or after is grammatically correct, although the former is more common with native speakers.

Below are some examples of this, and as you can see, either placement results in the same meaning.

Verb Irse: Before  Irse: After English Equivalent
Ir a  Yo – Me voy a ir Yo – Voy a irme I am going to leave
Tener que Tú – Te tienes que ir Tú -Tienes que irte You have to leave
Querer Él, ella, usted – Se quiere ir Él, ella, usted – Quiere irse He / she / it wants to leave
Deber Nosotros, nosotras – Nos debemos ir Nosotros, nosotras – Debemos irnos We must leave
Necesitar Ellos ellas, ustedes – Se necesitan ir Ellos ellas, ustedes – Necesitan irse They need to leave
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Ir vs Irse: Special Use

The last thing to mention is that these two verbs are commonly used in an informal way that is specific to spoken Spanish, rather than written Spanish.

This form expresses that an action is in progress, unfolding gradually over time, or else, that an action is about to start or be extended.

(it will make more sense once we see examples)

This form uses the conjugated verb Ir or Irse, followed by the gerund (-ando, -endo) of the main action verb.

Before we see how this works, it is important to point out that native speakers tend to use this form with simple tenses (simple present, simple past & simple future).

Now, let’s see some examples.

Tense Ir – Irse + gerund English Equivalent
Present Simple Los adolescentes van madurando con el paso del tiempo Teenagers grow up with the passing of time
Past Simple or Preterite Elena fue aprendiendo a cocinar poco a poco Elena was learning to cook one step at a time
Future Simple ¿Tomarás un taxi o te irás caminando? Will you take a taxi or will you leave walking?

Now that you have an idea of how this works, below are the most common “Ir/irse + gerund” expressions, which can be used with any simple tense.

Expression English Equivalent Example English Equivalent
Irse alistando, irse preparando to get ready, to start something Me voy preparando para el examen I’m gonna get ready for the test
Irse caminando to walk, to go by foot Luis y sus amigos se fueron caminando al estadio Luis and his friends went by foot to the stadium
Ir madurando to grow up, to mature Son solo niños, ellos van madurando con el paso de los años They are just kids, they’ll mature over the years
Ir aprendiendo to learn Luke va aprendiendo italiano más rápido de lo esperado Luke is learning Italian faster than expected
Irse enamorando to start falling in love Fabiola se fue enamorando de su mejor amigo a la larga Fabiola started falling in love with her best friend as time went on
Ir mejorando to get better, to improve La nueva gerente va mejorando más cada día The new manager is getting better every day
Irse yendo to get going Me voy yendo al supermercado. ¿Necesitas algo? I’m gonna get going to the supermarket. Do you need anything?
Irse defendiendo to get by Él no habla inglés muy bien, pero se va defendiendo He doesn’t speak English very well, but he is getting by
Irse acostumbrando to get used El clima de Chile es muy frío, pero ellas se van acostumbrando a él Chile’s weather is freezing, but they are getting used to it

Ir v Irse: Exercices

Fill the gaps with the appropriate form of Ir or Irse.

(scroll below for answers)

  1. Mi familia ____ (irse) a Lima dentro de dos meses
  2. Julio ____ (ir) a casarse el fin de semana. Su boda será en la tarde
  3. Carlos, Raúl y Jessica ____ (irse) de la fiesta porque está muy aburrida
  4. Claudia ____ (ir) a cortarse el cabello esta tarde.
  5. Ellas no ____ (ir) al colegio hoy porque están enfermas
  6. Nosotros ____ (irse) en la mañana, porque tenemos que trabajar temprano
  7. ¿ ____ (ir – tú) a ir al restaurante que te recomendé ayer? ¡Es muy bueno y barato!
  8. La semana que viene ____ (ir – yo) a comprar una nueva cámara para tomar muchas fotos durante el viaje a Puerto Rico
  9. Karina y Marcos ____ (irse) a mudar de Caracas a Margarita dentro de dos semanas
  10. “¿Por qué ____ (irse – ustedes)?” Le pregunto a ellos, pero no obtuvo respuesta alguna

Ir v Irse: Answers

  1. Mi familia se va a Lima dentro de dos meses
  2. Julio va a casarse el fin de semana. Su boda será en la tarde
  3. Carlos, Raúl y Jessica se van de la fiesta porque está muy aburrida
  4. Claudia va a cortarse el cabello esta tarde.
  5. Ellas no van al colegio hoy porque están enfermas
  6. Nosotros nos vamos en la mañana, porque tenemos que trabajar muy temprano
  7. ¿ Vas a ir al restaurante que te recomendé ayer? ¡Es muy bueno y barato!
  8. La semana que viene voy a comprar una nueva cámara para tomar muchas fotos durante nuestro viaje a Puerto Rico
  9. Karina y Marcos se van a mudar de Caracas a Margarita dentro de dos semanas
  10. “¿Por qué se van?” Le pregunto a ellos, pero no obtuvo respuesta alguna
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