What’s the difference between ‘Ir’ and ‘Irse’?


Ir and irse share the same root. As a result, it’s easy to confuse them, but soon enough Spanish learners realize that they cannot use them interchangeably because these verbs have different meanings and purposes. For that reason, a lot of people wonder what’s the difference between ir and irse in Spanish. 

Both ‘ir’ and ‘irse’ are verbs that express movement. Ir expresses that a person is moving from one place to another, as a result, it means ‘to go’. Irse is a reflexive verb that conveys that a person is leaving a place or location. It means ‘to leave’, ‘to go away’ or ‘to depart’.  

For new and experienced Spanish speakers knowing the nuances in meaning between ‘ir’ and ‘irse’ can be a challenging task. However, both of these verbs are necessary for your Spanish conversations. For this reason, in the following sections, we’ll discuss more in-depth what are the differences between ir and irse as well as the contexts where you need to use one or the other. 

Additionally, we’ll include examples so you can see their differences in meanings and their applications. Finally, we’ll present you with some phrase structures that will help you apply these verbs correctly. Hopefully, by the end of this, ‘ir’ vs ‘irse’ will no longer be a problem for you.  

What’s the Difference Between ‘Ir’ and ‘Irse’ in Spanish

When learning Spanish, many people have issues with ‘ir’ and ‘irse’ because they seem to be and mean the same. However, each of these verbs has its own meanings, uses, and grammatical rules to follow. 

In Spanish, we use ir to express destination. In other words, this verb allows us to express that a person is going from one place to another. Additionally, ‘ir’ is used to build sentences in the future tense. ‘Ir’ is the direct translation of ‘to go’. 

Voy a la casa de Liz
I’m going to Liz’s house

Todos los sábados, mi hermana y su novio van al cine
Every Saturday, my sister and her boyfriend go to the movie

 Irse also expresses movement, but in this case, we use this verb to say that a person is leaving or departing from a place. On top of this, ‘irse’ is a reflexive verb while ‘ir’ is a standard verb, as a result, irse always needs to work with reflexive pronouns. This verb can be translated as: ‘to leave’, ‘to depart’, ‘to go’ or ‘to go away’. 

Mañana nos vamos a España de vacaciones
Tomorrow we’re going (departing) to Spain on vacation

Mamá, ya me voy porque voy a llegar tarde
Mom, I’m leaving because I’m going to be late

‘Irse’ always implies that the subject is leaving the place where he or she is right now. So for instance, in the first sentence, the subject is leaving its own country to go somewhere else. 

In the next example, I’m leaving the place where I’m right now (possibly my house) to go to another place. 

In the following sections, we’ll discuss the contexts and the rules that you need to follow in order to use these verbs correctly more in-depth. 

Related Resource: Difference Between Regular and Reflexive Verbs

When & How to Use ‘Ir’ in Spanish?

‘Ir’ is a non-reflexive verb and it’s the direct translation of ‘to go’. In Spanish, we use ‘ir’ to express that a person is going somewhere (in other words, that she/he is moving from one place to another). In this context of expressing destination, ‘ir’ works with the following phrase structure:  

[Ir conjugated] + a  + [place]

Alberto fue a la tienda
Alberto went to the store

¿Vamos al concierto de Pepe?
Are we going to Pepe’s concert?

Ve a casa de tu abuela y dale estas cosas
Go to your granny’s and give her this stuff

Claudia y Ale van a México cada verano
Claudia and Ale go to Mexico each summer

Ayer no fui a la oficina porque me sentía mal
Yesterday I didn’t go to the office because I didn’t feel well

Take Note: When using ‘ir’ to express destination, you always need to work with a preposition. On top of this, in this context, you can conjugate the verb to match any type of tense you may need. 

Additionally, ‘ir’ is also used to build sentences in the future tense. In order to do this, you will need to use the following phrase structure. When talking about the future with ‘ir’, it must always be conjugated in the present tense. 

[Ir conjugated in present tense] + a + [verb infinitive]

Vamos a salir a comprar comida
We’re going to go out to buy food

Mamá, ¿vas a querer que riegue tus plantas?
Mom, are you going to want me to water your plants?

El próximo domingo voy a desayunar con Sandy
Next Sunday I’m going to have breakfast with Sandy

Oye, Sergio, no voy a poder ir a tu fiesta
Hey, Sergio, I’m not going to be able to go to your party

Ir en

In conversational Spanish, ir en can be used as an informal way to express that a person is attending or taking certain classes or courses. In this case, ‘ir en’ can be translated as ‘to be in’, ‘to take’ or ‘to attend’.

¿En qué semestre vas? What semester are you in?

Voy en tercer semestre I’m in the third semester

When & How to Use ‘Irse’ in Spanish?

In Spanish, irse is also used to express movement. However, ‘irse’ conveys that a person is leaving or departing from a point of origin which is a place where the subject is located at the moment of the sentence. 

This verb is the direct translation of ‘to leave’, ‘to depart’ or ‘to go away’. In some instances, it can also be translated as ‘to go’ as long as we’re implying that a person is leaving a place. Additionally, notice that, in order to use this verb correctly, you will need to follow the Spanish reflexive verb conjugation. Here is a phrase structure that you can use: 

[Irse conjugated] + a [noun]

Martín se va a las tres
Martin leaves at three 

Papá, ya nos vamos a la escuela
Dad, we’re leaving for school

Mi primo se fue sin decir adiós
My cousin left without saying goodbye

¿A qué hora te vas mañana?
What time do you depart tomorrow?

Si no quieres estar aquí, vete
If you don’t want to be here, leave

Take Note: Irse is the reflexive form of ‘ir’. Like other Spanish verbs, ‘ir’ changes its meaning when being in a reflexive form. For this reason, you cannot use these verbs interchangeably.  

Related Resources: Verbs that Change Meaning in Reflexive Form

Wrapping Up

When learning Spanish, it’s very common to confuse ir and irse because both verbs share the same root. But even though they seem very similar, these verbs don’t share the same meaning and purposes in a sentence. As a result, it’s important that you know the difference between ir and irse in Spanish. 

In order to help with this, in this article, we discussed the difference in meaning between these verbs as well as the contexts and the grammatical rules that you need to follow in each case. Here are some quick key points to keep in mind:

Ir 

  • Is a regular (Non-reflexive) verb.
  • Used in regards to a destination: a person goes from someplace to another.
  • Works with the preposition a.
  • Used to build sentences in future simple tense
  • Means ‘to go’.

Irse

  • Is a Reflexive verb and always works with reflexive pronouns
  • Expresses that a person is leaving a point of origin (the place where they’re located right now).
  • It’s the direct translation of to leave. It also means to depart, to go away or to go (as long as it expresses that someone is leaving). 

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of the difference between ‘ir’ vs ‘irse.

Related Resource: Difference Between Salir, Dejar & Irse

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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