What's the difference between "vamos" and "vámonos"?

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Español

Cuando estaba estudiando Español, aprendí que let's go es vamos, pero cuando fui a México, lo único que oí era vámonos. Le pregunté a una persona bilingüe allá, pero no supo la diferencia. ¿Cuál es la diferencia? ¿Es solo en México, o es igual en España?


English

When I studied Spanish I learned let's go is vamos but when I got to Mexico all I heard was vámonos, I asked a bilingual speaker there what was the difference but she couldn't tell me. What's the difference? Is it specific to Mexico or would it be the same in Spain?

Old Pro

Posted 2012-05-22T06:56:56.160

Reputation: 253

4Simple answer: vámonos is reflexive. It's the same difference between voy and me voy. Although the complete answer is more complex than that, and involves understanding why we don't use vayámonos as the imperative form.Flimzy 2012-05-22T07:16:44.757

1@Flimzy: I would love to see a more complete answer (that also explains at least shortly the difference between voy and me voy) :-)Eli Bendersky 2012-05-22T08:54:31.967

@EliBendersky: I would have left an answer, but I don't really understand the imperative form very well, so I chose to leave it to someone else :) I think Javi did a good job below.Flimzy 2012-05-22T17:04:30.153

2Down in South Texas a few years back, you could have heard a slangy "Fuímonos!" it's kinda like saying "Let's went!" when you're fixing to bail. – None – 2014-01-24T04:12:23.457

Answers

26

Before I answer I just want to say that this is by no means an "official" grammatical use of the two words, it it simply the way typical people would typically use it, and at least this is the typical way where I come from, which is Mexico City.

Usually "vámonos" would be used in a context in which you are leaving FROM a place, something like "Vámonos de este lugar" - "Let's go from this place".

Regarding "vamos" would be used in a context in which you are going TO a place, something like "Vamos al cine" - "Let's go to the movies".

Like I said, I am unable to give any grammatical explanation, only to show the way I have used these two words all my life.

Hope this helps.

Sergio Romero

Posted 2012-05-22T06:56:56.160

Reputation: 3 044

I found this answer interesting, but oddly enough, just yesterday, within minutes of having read this, I sat down to eat some dinner and watch a little TV. A show I had never seen before -- Escape Perfecto -- happened to be on. In this airing of the show, in between the sessions of answering questions, a guy would run back and forth between a bunch of shoes and an empty shoe rack. As he did this, the guy answering questions shouts to him, "¡Vámonos! ¡Vámonos!" over and over again. I about jumped out of my seat when I heard it.

Lisa Beck 2017-04-11T19:22:23.087

This experience further established my belief that if you really want to learn a language, you need to expose yourself to it in as many different ways as you can even if on the surface they may not seem all that legitimate.Lisa Beck 2017-04-11T19:24:10.500

2Exactly the same in Spain. Some more examples: "Vámonos a casa" meaning you want to go back home, so it's like you want to leave the place where you are. "¡Vamos a la playa!", the typical in summer...JoulSauron 2012-05-22T16:42:37.403

2I think the difference in meaning between "leave from" and "go to" cases is the preposition you use in Spanish after the verb "ir" ("ir/irse a" vs "ir de"). When you use "a" preposition you can say both e.g. ¡Vamos a la playa! or ¡Vámonos a la playa! but when you use "de" the pronominal form is the one used e.g. ¡Vámonos de la playa! (and not ¡vamos de la playa!)Javi 2012-05-22T18:50:30.797

The way my (Mexican) dad is explained it to me is exactly this, but he explained the towards / away from difference by saying that "vámonos" is a shortened form of "nos vamos."Dave 2018-01-18T01:12:36.577

15

When they have an imperative meaning like "let's go" both verbs can be interchangeable and can have the same meaning (see Sergio Romero's answer to see the difference). The question you may ask is why there are 2 ways of saying that and it's because the verb "ir" is used many times in a pronominal way as "irse" with the same meaning. So we have:

  • Vamos
  • Vámonos = Vamos + nos ("vamos" loses the final "s" when "nos" is added)

Note that in the second case "nos" is placed after the verb "vamos" because it has an imperative meaning, so "vámonos" can't mean something like "we go"(if you want to say "we go" you should say "nos vamos").

If you go to the conjugation table of the verb "ir" you'll see that "vamos" is the present of the verb "ir" (so it can also mean "we go" instead of "let's go" depending on the context). So you may wonder why a present can have an imperative meaning. The imperative in Spanish doesn't have a proper form for "nosotros", so when that happens the "imperative" is formed with the present of the subjunctive mood, for example:

seamos buenos (verb SER)

cantemos una canción (verb CANTAR)

So following the same rule you may think it should be "vayamos/ vayámonos". You may say that, though currently that form is only used in literature. But verb IR is a bit tricky in this case. It's done in a different way because of historical reasons (as it's explained in the 2nd point of this link from RAE). In the past, the present of subjunctive for "nosotros" could be both "vamos" and "vayamos". Now "vayamos" is the only subjunctive form, but "vamos" is much more frequent when it has an imperative meaning (as inherited from the past). Here we have what it says:

La forma vamos es hoy la primera persona del plural del presente de indicativo pero en el español medieval y clásico era, alternando con vayamos, forma de primera persona del plural del presente de subjuntivo. Como resto de su antiguo valor de subjuntivo, la forma vamos se emplea, con más frecuencia que vayamos, con finalidad exhortativa: «Vamos, Johnny, vamos a casa que es tarde»

La forma de subjuntivo vayamos, con este sentido, ha quedado casi relegada a la lengua literaria: «Vayámonos de aquí». Lo que no debe hacerse en ningún caso es emplear hoy la forma vamos, en lugar de vayamos, en contextos que exigen subjuntivo y sin que exista, en el enunciado, intención exhortativa.

Javi

Posted 2012-05-22T06:56:56.160

Reputation: 6 589

4

They are quite similar, but I would say "vámonos" is more used in situations where you want to say: "let's go from this place". And "vamos" is more like "let's go to X place" (the emphasis is in the destination, not in the need to leave the current place). "¡Vamos!" can also be translated as: "hurry up!" or "come on!".

Sergio

Posted 2012-05-22T06:56:56.160

Reputation: 381

2¡Vámonos! is “Let’s leave”, since irse is “to leave”. Just plain ¡Vamos! is less restricted. Agreed? That is, you can use the simple form everywhere, but the reflexive one has a more restricted (although perfectly common) application.tchrist 2012-05-29T02:17:25.560

0

"Vamos/Vamonos" es simplemente una invitación a hacer algo. Let's run. Corramos. Let's eat. Comamos. Let's sing.c Cantemos. En este caso vamos/vamonos pueden significar lo mismo. Sin embargo, dependiendo del contexto podría cambiar. Vamos! Podria signicar algos si como. Yeah you can get it! Como dándole ánimo a alguien y 'vamonos' definitivamente podria ser una invitación que significaría: salgamos de este lugar. En Mexico, España, Colombia y demás paises se debe usar así.

Julian

Posted 2012-05-22T06:56:56.160

Reputation: 1

-1

In Spain both are used interchangeably.

juanjux

Posted 2012-05-22T06:56:56.160

Reputation: 137

4No distinction between leaving and heading to as Sergio and Joul described?Old Pro 2012-05-23T08:01:05.810

-1

I think that Vamonos is intransitive. In other words. Let's go, without specifying where. Vamos is transitive and is followed by a location. Not so much "let's go" as much as "we go" .....to the movies.

-¿(Nos) vamos al cine?

-Sí, vámonos.

Margo

Posted 2012-05-22T06:56:56.160

Reputation: 1

Both forms can be intransitive or transitive, just as in English "Let's go" and "Let's go to the movies" are both valid, as are "Here we go" or "Here we go to the movies."Flimzy 2014-08-13T09:32:34.837