Spanish Grammar: Ir vs Irse

Non-native speakers of Spanish often struggle to know when to use Ir (to go) versus Irse (to leave). Even though Ir and Irse have the same infinitive, they have different meanings and are used in different ways.

Ir

"Ir" (to go) is an irregular verb that is always used in conjunction with a destination. It does not require a direct object, rather it uses prepositions such as "a," "hacia," and "hasta" to communicate where a person or object is going. "Ir" can also be used to communicate mode of transportation. Review the following examples.

We are going to the hospital.
Vamos al hospital.
The dog went to the river.
El perro fue hasta el río.
We went toward the road.
Fuimos hacia la carretera.
He is going on a bus.
Él va en autobús.
I am going on foot.
Voy a pie.

Irse

"Irse" (to leave, to leave from) is an idiomatic verb that is used in conjunction with a starting point. "Irse" is not reflexive, but uses reflexive pronouns. "Irse" always focus on the action of going away from somewhere or leaving. Review the following examples.

I have to leave.
Tengo que irme.
We have to leave.
Tenemos que irnos.
I'm leaving.
Me voy.
Why are they leaving tomorrow morning?
¿Por qué se van mañana por la mañana?