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Going Places in Spanish: How to Understand the “Ir” Conjugation

Have you ever heard the Spanish expression “me voy a ir yendo”? This is a very common, perfectly grammatical statement with not one, not two, but three different forms of ir conjugation. If that doesn’t highlight to you the importance of this verb, I don’t know what to tell you.

Ir, meaning “to go”, is one of the top 10 most frequently used verbs in Spanish. So it goes without saying that knowing which form of it to use when is essential to speaking Spanish well. Be aware that ir is highly irregular, so it pays to spend time studying the various conjugations. Lucky for you, this article breaks them all down for you!

Verbals of ir

Verbals are the un-conjugated forms of the verb. They need to go with another verb which is conjugated in order to be used in a sentence.

Infinitive: ir (to go)

Example: Me gusta ir al mercado todos los sábados. | I like to go to the market every Saturday.

Gerund: yendo (going)

Example: Paso mucho tiempo bailando, bebiendo, y yendo de compras. | I spend a lot of time dancing, drinking and going shopping.

See more on how to use the gerund in our estar conjugation guide.

Participle: ido (gone)

Example: Cuando él vino yo ya había ido. | When he came I had already gone.

For an explanation on this structure, see our article on how to use haber.

Ir conjugation: basic forms

The most common ir conjugation forms are as follows:

Subject Present Preterite Future Imperfect
yo voy fui iré iba
vas fuiste irás ibas
él, ella, Usted va fue irá iba
nosotros vamos fuimos iremos íbamos
vosotros vais fuisteis iréis ibais
ellos, ellas, ustedes van fueron irán iban

Examples of ir conjugation in present tense

  • Voy contigo esta vez. | I’m going with you this time.
  • ¿Vas para la fiesta hoy? | Are you going to the party today?
  • Nosotros vamos a la piscina cada lunes. | We go to the pool each Monday.

As you can see, the simple present conjugation of ir can be used like the English simple present “go” as well as the English present continuous “to be going”. Estar yendo (literally: to be going) is not at all a common phrase in Spanish.

Examples of ir conjugation in past preterite tense

  • Fui a la playa 10 vezes este verano. | I went to the beach ten times this summer.
  • Mi amigo fue conmigo al concierto. | My friend went with me to the concert.
  • Mis padres fueron de vacaciones a Roma. | My parents went on holiday to Rome.

Note that the past preterite of the verb ir is exactly the same as the past preterite of the verb ser.

Examples of ir conjugation in future tense

  • Iré al aeropuerto mañana a las 3 de la mañana. | I will go to the airport at 3am tomorrow morning.
  • Cuando seas mayor irás a trabajar todos los días. | When you grow up you’ll go to work every day.
  • ¿Iréis a la procesión hoy? | Will you (guys) go to the parade today?

What have you noticed so far about sentences using the verb ir?

This verb is never followed directly by a noun, it is always followed by a preposition which attaches it to the noun. It is usually a (to), but as we have seen, it can also be con (with), para (for/to), or de (of). There are certainly many more possibilities!

Examples of ir conjugation in past imperfect tense

  • Yo iba a la parada de autobús cuando me llamaste y ofreciste llevarme a la escuela. | I was going to the bus stop when you called me and offered to give me a lift to school.
  • Cuando yo era niña, íbamos una vez al año a las islas griegas. | When I was a girl, we went once a year to the Greek Islands.
  • Mis hermanos iban pero el auto se averió de camino. | My brothers were going (on their way) but the car broke down on the way.

This ir conjugation will only be used when you’re talking about somewhere you used to go or where you were going at the time that something else happened (that new event would be referred to in past preterite).

Note: Watch out for the two iba’s! Iba can mean “I went”, and it can also mean “he/she went”. Ensure you always include the subject in your sentence if there is any chance of ambiguity.

Ir conjugation: Advanced forms

If you’ve mastered that first lot and are ready for something a bit more advanced, here are the subjunctive and conditional forms of ir conjugation.

Subject Present Subjunctive (that you) go Imperfect Subjunctive
(if I) went…
Conditional
(I) would go…
yo vaya fuera iría
vayas fueras irías
él, ella, Usted vaya fuera iría
nosotros vayamos fuéramos iríamos
vosotros vayáis fuerais iríais
ellos, ellas, ustedes vayan fueran irían

Examples of ir conjugation in present subjunctive

  • Cuando vaya a la oficina le pasaré tu mensaje. | When I go to the office I’ll pass him your message.
  • Quiero que vayas a la tienda a comprarme la medicina. | I want you to go to the store to buy me the medicine.
  • Mi mamá no quiere que ellos vayan solos al festival. | My mom doesn’t want them to go alone to the festival.

If you’re not sure when you’d use this verb form, check out Spanish Obsessed’s subjunctive guide.

Examples of ir conjugation in imperfect subjunctive & conditional

  • Si yo fuera a tu fiesta, entonces no iría a la fiesta de mi hermana. | If I went to your party, then I wouldn’t go to my sister’s party.
  • Si yo no fuera a Bali, nunca sabría lo que es el amor. | If I didn’t go to Bali, I’d never know what love is.
  • Si él pudiera, iría a tu casa ahora mismo. | If he could, he would go to your house right now.

Note that, like the past preterite, the imperfect subjunctive of the verb ir is exactly the same as it is for the verb ser.

It’s great to know the ir conjugation, but how and when do we actually use this verb?

Now, ir is not only an important lexical verb (conveying meaning), it is also a functional verb, meaning it gives structure to sentences as well. Let’s see how it plays out in its two formats.

Lexical uses (meanings) of ir

Ir usually means “to go”

This is obviously the main use of the verb. Luckily, it is used almost the same way as it is in English. The only time when it is different is when the point of reference is different, which will be discussed in the next point.

Ir sometimes means “to come”

In very limited situations, ir would be translated as “to come” instead of “to go” in English. This is because, in Spanish, we talk about going in the sense of going toward something else, and coming in the sense of what is coming towards you (or whoever the subject is).

For example, ¡Ya voy! is a very commonly heard Spanish expression, which in English means “I’m coming!”. This is because you are technically going toward the person you’re talking to.

If you want to learn more about this, here’s a great audio lesson about the difference between ir and venir (to come).

Ir can also mean “to leave”

If you make ir reflexive, the meaning changes from ‘go’ to ‘leave’.

For example:

  • Él se va a las cinco. | He leaves at 5.
  • Vete, no te quiero ver más. | Go away, I don’t want to see you anymore.
  • Me iba pero ahora que llegaste creo que me quedaré. | I was leaving but now that you’re here I think I’ll stay.
  • El tren se fue y la niña comenzó a llorar. | The train left and the girl started to cry.

Let’s go

If you used to watch Dora the Explorer, you’ve surely heard the expression ¡Vámonos! This, too, comes from the verb ir. It’s the plural reflexive command form, if you really want to know.

So it’s essentially nos vamos (we leave) turned into a command (let’s leave). Very similar is the equally common expression vamos, which (as you know) just means “we go” but can be put as a question: ¿vamos? or a command: ¡vamos!.

 Vamos and vámonos are generally used interchangeably by native speakers as the difference is minimal.

Functional uses of ir

To form continuous phrases

The verb ir can be used almost interchangeably with the verb estar when it comes to forming continuous expressions (verb + gerund).

However, the meaning is not entirely the same. If you use ir instead of estar, you are emphasising that the action is ongoing.

For example:

  • Me estoy enamorando de él. | I am falling in love with him.
  • Me voy enamorando de él. | I am (in the process of) falling in love with him.

So estar is more neutral.

Side note: Me Voy Enamorando by Chino & Nacho is a catchy reggaeton song, and also happens to highlight this point! Check it out if you haven’t already.

To form a future conjugation

 Ir a + infinitive verb form means “going to” in the future.

Wait a minute… haven’t we already seen the future tense in Spanish? The truth is, in day-to-day life, both of these forms are used, but their meanings are slightly different. Before you get too confused, the easiest way to understand it is thinking of the difference between “will” and “going to” in English.

“I will eat” and “I’m going to eat” convey slightly different things, right? “Will”, which can be compared to the Spanish future tense, usually refers to the more distant future and is more abstract, whereas “going to”, which is just like ir a + infinitive, is generally more immediate and pertaining to reality.

However, they can be and often are used interchangeably.

Example of how to use ir a + infinitive:

  • Voy a comer (ahora/pronto/más tarde). | I am going to eat (now/soon/later).
  • Comeré chocolate todos los días cuando sea mayor/cuando me de la gana. | I will eat chocolate every day when I grow up/when I feel like it.

So, have you worked out the meaning of me voy a ir yendo yet? All of the verb forms in that sentence have actually been covered in this article! If you still can’t figure it out, maybe you need some more practice with the ir conjugation. But don’t worry, that’s exactly what Clozemaster is here for!

In the meantime, I, myself, ¡me voy a ir yendo! See you next time.

Click here to read our comprehensive guide to all Spanish tenses!

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

Test your skills and see what you’ve learned from this article by playing a selection of sentences with conjugated forms of the Spanish verb ir:

Sign up here to save your progress and start getting fluent with thousands of Spanish sentences at Clozemaster.

Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in Spanish.

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