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Recently while watching an episode of Narcos, I came across a scene where Escobar yells out a bunch of instructions to his minions and then asks them to leave. When he finds them a tad hesitant to leave, he yells at them apparently in the sense of "I said leave!" This is what he yelled:

¡Que se vayan!

I understand this is an indirect imperative construct and can be used instead of the regular imperative without the que. What I don't understand is its use-case. Where does this construct stand in terms of formal-ness? Is it more or less formal than the regular construct? Is there any factor that determines which one I use?

  • To me, it sounds incorrect. Maybe it is common in Colombia, let's see if it is the case. Could you also indicate the chapter when this happened? We can try to find it and listen if it is exactly this what he said. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Sep 6 '16 at 12:47
  • Since it was just a couple of instances out of an entire season of 10 episodes (I binge-watched it over the weekend), it's gonna be nearly impossible to fish out the exact episode it was used in. But I will try my best and update the question if successful. – TheLearner Sep 6 '16 at 12:55
  • I hate those movies/shows that create a false image around the subject and the country but focusing on your question I'm sure you misheard the sentence. I bet he said ¡Que se vayan!. I agree with @fedorqui, that sentence is wrong and I can tell you it is not a Colombian thing. Other option is that the actor made a mistake and the lousy production of the show didn't re-record the scene. – DGaleano Sep 6 '16 at 13:34
  • BTW the actor that plays Pablo is Brazilian !!! – DGaleano Sep 6 '16 at 13:40
  • Now when I think of it, "que se vayan" makes more sense than "que los vayan". Have updated the question to reflect the correction. That being said, the question still stands. How is it different from the imperative and what are the use-cases? – TheLearner Sep 6 '16 at 13:41
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This construction is usual in other Spanish countries, too. Que se vayan is just a subordinate where the main clause is elided. It could be He dicho que se vayan, Quiero que se vayan...

But, as I say, the construction is pretty usual, even if it looks weird that you omit the main clause and leave just the subordinate.

You can use it in a somewhat different context:

Han venido las personas que estaba usted esperando.

Que entren (Dígales que entren, or Haga que entren)

  • Yes, that's it. It's called ellipsis (elipsis) in both Spanish and English. – Sergio Tx Sep 7 '16 at 13:52
  • Thanks for explaining the phenomenon. Now coming back to the scenario in question (Pablo Escobar ordering his men to leave), is there any dialectical preference at work here? I mean using the elided construct (que se vayan) as against the simple imperative (se vayan)? Which format is more common when ordering someone to do something? – TheLearner Sep 7 '16 at 14:00
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    Probably to avoid using more words than necessary when they're implied by the conversation. Something like... -Váyanse. - Pero señor... - ¡(he dicho) Que se vayan!!! Or the example @Gorpik used. – Sergio Tx Sep 7 '16 at 15:32
  • @TheLearner it is exactly the same in english. After you tell someone to leave and he wants to stay and say something else you just yell "just go" or "please go" or simply "GO!!". These are not complete sentences but are very common and correct and have the same meaning as "váyanse" or "que se vayan" – DGaleano Sep 7 '16 at 15:58
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    @TheLearner another example: someone tells you Cállate. You keep talking so they tell you Que te calles, meaning (he dicho) que te calles. So using this form implies a stronger approach, normally meaning more hostility towards the targeted person. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Sep 8 '16 at 9:53

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