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Cuando estaba estudiando Español, aprendí que "let's go" es "vamos," pero cuando fui a México, lo único que oído estaba "vámonos." Pregunté a una persona bilingüe allá, pero ella no supe la diferencia. ¿Cuál es la diferencia? ¿Es eso 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?

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Simple 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 May 22 '12 at 7:16
    
@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 May 22 '12 at 8:54
    
@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 May 22 '12 at 17:04
    
@MODS It might be convenient to protect this question; which I cannot do. –  c.p. Jan 27 at 18:11

6 Answers 6

up vote 16 down vote accepted

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.

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Exactly 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 May 22 '12 at 16:42
    
I 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 May 22 '12 at 18:50

"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.

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and now, to bollix things up even more! .....

down 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.

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This is common in Mexico as well, but is really slang. –  alonso.torres Jan 30 at 23:19

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.

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To me, this is the correct answer for this question. –  Leandro Jun 3 '12 at 21:20

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!".

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¡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 May 29 '12 at 2:17

In Spain both are used interchangeably.

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No distinction between leaving and heading to as Sergio and Joul described? –  Old Pro May 23 '12 at 8:01

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