In Spanish, there are multiple verbs for the single, English verb ‘to leave’. As you learn Spanish, you’ll find this occurs for many verbs and they’re not always interchangeable. This is the case with ‘to leave’ and in this article, we’ll look at the three most common verbs for ‘to leave’: dejar, salir and irse.
So what’s the difference between Dejar, Salir, and Irse? Dejar means to leave something or somebody behind, cease working or attending an institution (i.e. quitting a job or school). Salir is to leave as in exiting, going out or departing. Irse is the Spanish verb for to leave from a place or to go away.
For many new Spanish speakers, it’s difficult to know when to choose the correct verb for ‘leave’. As you can see, there would be some cases where you would need to use irse instead of dejar or salir. Below we are going to show you the different situations to use each verb correctly. The things that will cover are:
- ‘Dejar’ vs. ‘Salir’ vs. ‘Irse’
- Other Spanish Verbs that Mean ‘To Leave’
- Key Points
By the end of this post, you will have a stronger understanding of when and how to use them.
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What’s the difference between Dejar, Salir, and Irse?
In Spanish, we use dejar when referring to leave someone or something behind or in a place. Just as ‘to leave’ in English, dejar can also be used as a synonym of ‘walkout’ on someone, cease working (or attending an institution) or keep something on.
Salir is ‘to leave’ from a confined place or to go out. It’s the translation of depart. It implies movement of a person or thing from a confined, inside place (like a building, a house or a room). In verbal communication, young Spanish native speakers also use salir as having a date.
Irse means to leave a place. It’s also the translation that means ‘to go away’. Unlike salir, irse is used to describe leaving a place to go to another one. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is not going to return in the future, they are just leaving that place at that moment.
Although understanding the meanings and the English translations of these words might be helpful, the best way to remember the difference between Dejar, Salir, and Irse is to see them working in their own context.
Take Note: At this point, it’s very likely that you’ve heard about dejar de. Although they look the same, there’s a huge difference between dejar and dejar de. This article would help to understand when to use Dejar de.
Using Dejar, Salir, and Irse
Dejar phrase structure:
Dejar (conjugated) + object/place
Dejé mis llaves en la mesa I left my keys on the table
Dejar (conjugated) + a + person
Todos los días dejo a los niños en la escuela Everyday, I leave the kids at School
Salir phrase structure:
Salir (conjugated) + de + la/el + building
Salgo del departamento a las 6 en la tarde I leave the apartment at 6 pm
Salir (conjugated) + noun (transportation)
|El tren sale a las 4||The train leaves at 4|
Irse phrase structure:
As you may have noticed, irse looks a little bit different than dejar and salir. While dejar and salir end with an r, irse ends with se. This is because irse is the reflexive form of the verb ir. Think about reflexive verbs as a verb working with two main components: an infinitive ver (ir) and a reflexive pronoun (se). Special reflexive verbs, like irse, do not have the same meaning as their infinitive verbs. Ir means ‘to go’ while irse means ‘to leave’.
|Pronoun||Irse (conjugated present tense)|
|Ella / Él||se va|
|Ustedes / Ellos||se van|
Me voy + date
Me voy + de + place
Me voy de este bar, está sucio I’m leaving this bar, it’s dirty
Take Note: When using irse and salir to mean leaving a place, you need to add the preposition ‘de’. As for dejar, if you are talking about leaving someone, you need to add the Spanish preposition ‘a’. Don’t forget to conjugate these verbs to match present, past, future, etc.
Examples and Explanations for Using Dejar, Salir, and Irse
In English, ‘to leave‘ describes many actions while in Spanish we have 3 verbs to use in different contexts. Let’s see the most common situations where we use each of them.
|Word||When to Use||English Example||Spanish|
|Dejar||Used before an object or ‘a’ if talking about someone. |
1. To leave something behind.
2. To leave someone in a place.
3. To walk out on someone.
4. To leave something on
5. Ceasing to attend or work for an institution.
|a) I always leave my shoes in the closet. |
b) I left the children with my mom.
c) Today, I’m leaving my girlfriend.
d) He always leaves the lights on.
e) He left school last summer.
a) Siempre dejo mis zapatos en el closet.
b) Dejé a los niños con mi mamá
c) Hoy voy a dejar a mi novia.
d) Él siempre deja las luces prendidas.
e) Dejó la escuela el verano pasado.
|Salir||Used before an expression of time or ‘de’ if leaving a place.|
1. To express leaving as a departure.
2. To leave a confined place like a building, station, vehicle, etc.
|a) Our bus leaves at 10. |
b) I left the office to get some fresh air.
c) I leave my house every morning to go to the store.
|a) Nuestro autobús sale a las 10.|
b) Salí de la oficina para tomar aire fresco.
c) Salgo de mi casa todas las mañanas para ir a la tienda.
Used before a date or ‘de’ if talking about leaving a place.
1. To go away.
2. To leave a place.
a) I’ll leave your house first thing in the morning.
b) I’m leaving the park because it is too crowded.
| a) Me iré de tu casa mañana a primera hora.|
b) Me voy del parque porque está muy lleno.
Are other ways/verbs that mean ‘to leave’ in Spanish?
Although dejar, salir, and irse are the 3 most common verbs we use in Spanish to say to leave, it’s very likely that you might have heard about marcharse too. This verb is very similar to Irse, but they are not exactly the same thing. Let’s inspect how they differ from each other.
Both Marcharse and Irse mean to leave or abandon a place. The main difference between these verbs is that marcharse has a more permanent nature while irse is temporary.
In other words:
Marcharse (conjugated) + expression of time
No saben nada de mí desde que me marché They haven’t heard anything from me since I left
As you can see, we use Marcharse when a person or yourself permanently left a place, so it’s very likely they are not coming back.
As opposed to:
Me voy del parque porque está lleno I’m leaving the park because it’s crowded
The example with irse expresses that the person is leaving the park at that moment. This doesn’t imply that he or she won’t return anytime in the future.
Take Note: You might find that some Spanish speaking countries like Mexico, use irse for both situations: leaving permanently or temporarily. In these cases, you will know the meaning depending on the situation you are leaving.
Me fui de mi ciudad para comenzar de cero I left my city to start over
In this situation, it’s very unlikely that this person will return to their city. The only thing that helped us to identify the real meaning of irse was the information we got from the sentence.
In this article, we saw the difference between dejar, salir, and irse, and we learned when to use them to say to leave. As mention above, these Spanish words have a slightly different meaning; thus, you can’t use them interchangeably. Just remember these key points:
- To cease attending or working for an institution.
- To leave someone or something behind. Remember that when talking about a person you need to add the preposition ‘a’ (i.e. dejar a).
- To walk out on somebody. Don’t forget the preposition.
- To keep or leave something on.
- To leave (exit) a confined place like a building, vehicle, etc. When expressing the place you left, add the preposition ‘de‘ (i.e. salir de).
- To express leaving as a departure. It goes with transportation nouns like trains, airplanes, bus, etc.
- To go away.
- To leave a place. Don’t forget about adding the preposition ‘de‘ (i.e. irse de).
- To leave a place for good/permanently. It’s very likely that the person won’t return.
How to say ‘leave now’ in Spanish? Vete ya, Vete ahora, Ya vete. These are different variations to say ‘leave now’ in Spanish. The expressions are in the imperative form of the verb Irse.
What does irse de pinta mean? It’s a Mexican expression to skip classes. Depending on the city you visit, some Mexicans will use hacerse la pinta.