Difference between ir (to go) and irse (to depart).

Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood

The difference between ir and irse.

Many students confuse ir and irse. Ir means to go, the destination is important. Irse means to depart, to leave, to go away, the destination is optional because what is important is letting others know that you are going away.

Of course, irse is more difficult since it requires students to know reflexive pronouns.

As a refresher, here is some information that is important to understand these verbs:


ir in the present tense
voy vamos
vas váis
va va


       ir in the preterite (past) tense
fui fuimos
fuiste fuisteis
fue fueron


      ir in the present subjunctive
vaya vayamos
vayas vayáis
vaya vayan


    reflexive pronouns
me nos
te os
se se


Reflexive pronouns are indicated in a dictionary by adding -se to the infinitive form. Dormir and dormirse, despertar and despertarse, bañar and bañarse, sentir and sentirse, ir and irse.

Remember that reflexive pronouns usually indicate that an action is being done upon oneself, but sometimes they are used to change the meaning of the verb, like negar, to deny, and negarse, to refuse; or despedir, to fire, dismiss, and despedirse, to say good bye.

Let’s see some examples using the information in these tables.

(Yo) voy a la tienda.  I go to the store. (I am going to the store.) In this example the destination is important, la tienda is important! Going there is not as important as buying something. There aren’t any reflexive pronouns in this sentence.

(Yo) quiero que vayas a la tienda.  I want you to go to the store.  [I want that you go to the store] (This sentence requires the present subjunctive)

(Nosotros) vamos a comer.  We go to eat. (We are going to eat.) or ¡vamos a comer!  Let’s go to eat! Having lunch is the important thing here, regardless of how you travel to that place.

(Yo) me voy al trabajo.  I’m leaving for work.  In this case, what is important is the fact that I am leaving, I am going away.

(Yo) ya me voy. Reflexivo. I am leaving now.  This is an irse sentence, it doesn’t indicate any destination, but it stresses the fact that I going away, I won’t be here anymore.

(Yo) quiero que él se vaya.  I want him to go away.  Again, this is an irse sentence. Someone wants another person to leave, to go away! The destination is not important, what is important is that someone needs to go away.

¡No te vayas!  Don’t leave! Don’t go away!  Again, this is an irse sentence. Where does this person want to go?  Who cares!  The important thing in this sentence is that somebody wants some other person to stay. Vayas in this case is a negative imperative form or ir that looks just like the present subjunctive.

¿Por qué se fue Susana? Why did Susan leave? This is a reflexive ir sentence that is asking why someone went away.

¡No se vayan todavía! ¡Quédense a cenar! You all, don’t leave yet! Stay for diner!

Hoy no voy a ir a la escuela.  I’m not going to school today.

¿A qué hora te vas a la escuela todos los días?  What time do you leave for school every day? What is emphasized here is the time of departure, not so much school or studying.

¡pues no vayas!  So don’t go!  This is plain ir, to go. The destination is important but it was previously mentioned in the conversation, so that might be a reason why it’s not in this sentence. – I feel sick, I don’t want to go to work. – So don’t go!



What is the opposite of irse?  To stay, quedarse (also a verb that requires the reflexive pronoun to keep this meaning. Quedar without reflexive pronoun means something else.)

No irse = quedarse.

¡No te vayas¡ ¡quédate un rato más!  Don’t leave! Stay a little longer!



¡No te vayas!













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