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The Spanish verb ir (to go) can be used—as can its English sibling—for talking about moving through space and through time into the immediate future.
This makes ir an enormously useful verb—it’s going to crop up in just about any conversation you have in the Spanish language. Whether your goal is complete fluency or just to get through basic conversations on a trip to Peru, this is a verb you’re going to need.
This post assumes you already have some knowledge of the Spanish present tense and other basic vocabulary. We’ll look at how ir is conjugated, how to use it to talk about going somewhere and then how to talk about what’s going to happen in the future.
Master the Near Future with the Spanish Form “ir + a + Infinitive”
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Present tense conjugations of the verb ir (to go)
The present tense of ir quite simply indicates that someone is doing the action of going.
yo voy nosotros vamos
tú vas vosotros vais
él/ella/Ud. va ellos/ellas/Uds. van
The word vamos can mean “we’re going” and “we go,” but it can also be used to make the suggestion “let’s go” in some contexts.
- ¡Vamos! — Let’s go!
Another common use of ir to be aware of is to talk about something functioning or not:
- Este ordenador no va. — This computer doesn’t work.
Going to a location in Spanish: ir + a + (place)
The most basic way to use the above conjugations of the verb ir is to talk about where someone is going now. You’ll add in the preposition a (to) before the destination.
- Voy a casa. — I’m going home.
- Él va a la playa. — He’s going to the beach.
- Vamos a la biblioteca. — We’re going to the library./Let’s go to the library.
Recall that when a is followed by the masculine article el (the), it always becomes al.
- Vas al cine. — You are going to the movie theater.
If you’re practicing with a partner, a nice way to work on these conjugations for the first time is to look at photos of people going places and form sentences about your best guesses as to where they’re going.
- Ella va a Chile. — She’s going to Chile.
- Ellos van a la montaña. — They are going to the mountain.
Talking about the immediate future in Spanish with ir + a + infinitive
The most common way to talk about the immediate future in Spanish also makes use of the verb ir, and much like English, it uses the verb “to go”:
- We’re going to study.
In order to do this, we’re going to need our verb ir, the preposition a and finally the infinitive form of the verb that tells us what will happen.
Infinitives are the unconjugated “base forms” of Spanish verbs that you see in dictionaries and grammar texts, and ir is the infinitive form of the verb “to go.” Other infinitive forms you probably know are: estudiar (to study), gustar (to be pleasing), bailar (to dance), comer (to eat) and vivir (to live). All Spanish infinitives end with either –ar, –er or –ir.
To make a sentence about what’s about to happen, use the following construction:
conjugated form of ir + a + infinitive verb
So, for example:
- Vamos a estudiar. — We’re going to study.
- Voy a dormir. — I’m going to sleep.
Simply changing the intonation (an upward intonation at the end of the sentence as in English—but it’s usually more exaggerated in Spanish) can make such a sentence into a question:
- ¿Vais a comer? — Are you going to eat?
- ¿Vas a estornudar? — Are you going to sneeze?
However, if you spot an excellent dancer whom you’d like to take for a spin on the salsa dance floor, the best way to approach is to hold out your hand and make it sound inevitable:
- Vamos a bailar. — We’re going to dance.
You may recall that llueve means “it’s raining.” The infinitive form of that verb is llover. Can you guess how you might express your dreary prediction for the day’s weather?
- Va a llover. — It’s going to rain.
Just as in the present tense, we conjugate the verb for the third-person singular: for some unknown “it.”
We can of course also use this construction in sentences that are more than three words long! While word order in Spanish is notoriously flexible, ir + a + infinitive is a tightly bound trio that must never be separated. Any additional words will come before or after, but never anywhere inside this trio.
- Ellos van a bailar tango. — They’re going to dance tango.
- Voy a vivir en Nápoles. — I’m going to live in Naples.
- ¿Vas a tomar la siesta? — Are you going to take a nap?
The same applies for any object pronouns (e.g., lo, la, te, nos, etc.); they must never come anywhere inside our inviolable trio, but must rather be right before or after. Know that if you use them after the trio, they get attached to the infinitive.
- Vamos a hacerlo. — We’re going to do it.
- Lo vamos a hacer. — We’re going to do it.
Comparing ir + a + infinitive to the Spanish future tense
You may have noticed that I said this construction was for talking about the immediate future. That’s a very subjective thing. A speaker might feel that the immediate future is seconds from now, but also years.
In either case, however, the choice of ir + a + infinitive suggests a bit more immediacy than the use of the Spanish future tense—which most learners approach a little later. In any case, it’s good to keep this in mind as you practice today’s construction.
The future tense, in contrast, sounds like it takes place just a bit more into the distant future, and is also a bit more formal.
- Voy a hacer lo necesario. — I’m going to do what is necessary. (i.e. soon, I’ll get it done now-ish, I’ll take care of it)
Contrast that to the future tense:
- Haré lo necesario. — I will do what is necessary. (i.e., it will happen in the future, sometime)
The first statement is just a smidgen more reassuring to the listener who’s anxious to see something done! The second statement sounds a little stiff, and one is just a bit less sure how soon action will be taken. The difference in meaning is small, but it’s there.
You can see an example of this contrast in the following reggaeton song.
In the first few lines, the gentleman who’s serenading us says:
Hoy voy a beber y sé
que voy a enloquecer
y te llamaré después
para hacerte mía mujer
Today I’m going to drink and I know
that I’m going to lose my mind
and I will call you after
to make you my wife
You can read the full lyrics here. It’s a simple song and great to learn from, but beware that there’s also some non-standard grammar—like mía mujer instead of mi mujer—and shortening of words in a Caribbean style.
The first two lines make use of the construction ir + a + infinitive, which tells us that our lovelorn crooner is about to hit the bottle.
A bit more distantly, after the crazy drunken haze of the night, it seems the lucky lady can expect a ring, or at least some slurred speech from a man down on one knee.
¿Y tú? ¿Qué vas a hacer esta noche? ¿Vas a estudiar esta construcción? (And you? What are you going to do tonight? Are you going to study this construction?)
Try talking to a language partner online tonight from Chile about your immediate plans, and then ask her about hers.
You might then write about your plans and those of people you know, and ask a native speaker to correct the text.
¡Va a ser fantástico! (It’s going to be fantastic!)
Following his fourteen years of bouncing around Europe and Latin America, Mose Hayward blogs about the ultra-minimalist’s very best gear for travel.
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