Posted by: janecronin | August 27, 2017


I’ve decided to bite the bullet this week and write about the most irregular of all verbs – the infamous “ir” meaning “to go”.  Actually you only have to look at its infinitive form to realise that it has a serious problem, as it consist of just two letters which in any other verb would count as the ending.  In other words, when we do our usual operation of splitting the ending (-ar, -er, -ir) from the rest of the verb to get the root, we end up with nothing at all.  So, nothing about this verb is going to be normal.

Of course, you can look at the “ir” page of a verb book, or on the internet, to see just what weird and wonderful things this verb does to keep itself afloat in a sentence, so I’ll just point out a few gems.  First of all in the present tense, it breaks all convention by deciding to start with the letter “v”.  Quite early on in our elementary Spanish learning we come across the phrases “voy a..” (I’m going to..) and “vamos a..” (we’re going to..) which make use of these two forms of “ir”. “Vamos” is a particularly common word as on its own it means “we go” and “let’s go” as well as one of those one-off exclamations, something akin to “Well then!”  You also often hear it in the phrase “vamos a ver” (let’s see) when someone is about to tackle a problem or explain something that’s a bit complicated.

In the continuous or imperfect tense “ir” decides to involve the letter “b” with “iba, íbamos” etc. (I was going, we were going) whilst in the past simple or preterite tense the letter “f” suddenly makes an appearance “fui, fuimos“ (I went, we went).    Of course there are some occasions when “ir” behaves itself properly and unexpectedly becomes regular – such as in “ido” (gone) and also in the future “iré, iremos” (I will go, we will go).    My apologies to those readers who haven´t studied many different tenses and I hope this rather sketchy summary doesn´t put you off for life.

For the truly initiated, there is one other significant irregularity with the verb “ir” and that is the present subjunctive, which is based on “vaya”.   You may have heard of the group “Vaya con Dios” which means “(May you) Go with God”.   Rather like “vamos”, “vaya” also exists as a free-standing exclamation expressing a certain amount of surprise with a tinge of displeasure.  If someone unexpectedly walked out of the room, or you were trying to understand something that escapes you (possibly the contents of this article) you might exclaim “¡Vaya!” provided nothing stronger was required.

Going back to where we started “voy” on its own is often used to mean “I’m coming” “I’m on my way” although it sounds weird if you translate it literally into English “I go!”

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