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So I have been told before that when putting a reflexive pronoun before "voy" or after the infinitive verb, the meaning of the phrase stays the same. But recently, I have discovered thanks to stack exchange that "me voy" means "to leave." And I also know that "comprarse" is to buy for oneself.

I am wondering if there is actually any difference between "me voy a comprar algo" and "voy a comprarme algo"; is what I have stated above correct and applicable to these two structures. I would also like to know if it possible to say "me voy a comprarme algo" and if this structure means: "I am leaving to buy something for myself."

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Two are unambiguous in their meaning and one is ambiguous. Both verbs, ir and comprar can take a reflexive pronoun, though for different reasons: in the case of irse we are dealing with a verbo pronominal (a verb which takes reflexive pronouns because it does) and in comprarse it's a verb that actually has the subject acting upon itself.

So let's take a look at the options.

  • Voy a comprarme algo
    In this case, the me necessarily applies to comprar, because pronouns cannot shift down a verbal hierarchy. Thus we interpret this as I'm going to / I will buy myself something.
  • Me voy a comprar algo
    This sentence is technically ambiguous because of pronoun raising that the periphrasis ir a allows. Pronouns lower in a verb hierarchy can be shifted to verbs closer to the main verb. Thus the me could be from comprarse, just shifted up to ir (and thus with the previously stated meaning), or the me could come from irse, giving us the interpretation I'm leaving / heading out to buy something.
  • Me voy a comprarme algo
    This construction uses pronouns (in this case, both reflexive) in two different positions. That's not permitted with the periphrasis ir a but because we're dealing with irse, the comprar(se) functions as its own verbal nucleus and can take its own pronouns. This gives us the interpretion of I'm leaving / heading out to buy myself something.
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  • I can't understand the meaning of 'pronouns cannot shift down a verbal hierarchy', could you expand a bit? – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Feb 1 '18 at 22:33
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    @fedorqui : si tienes varios verbos que van juntos, los pronombres puede subir (ir más hacia el verbo flexionado, lo que sería «puedo» en el caso de «puedo intentar enseñarle»: también es posible «puedo intentarle enseñar», subiendo un nivel, o «le puedo intentar enseñar»). – user0721090601 Feb 1 '18 at 22:42
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    Cuando los pronombres suben, aplican a los verbos inferiores en coordinación: le voy a robar el dinero y destruir la vida == voy a robarle el dinero y destruirle la vida. No se puede separar si se trata de un núcleo: no es posible le voy a robarlo y destruirla (pero si destruyéramos lo que robáramos: se lo voy a robar y destruir == voy a robárselo y destruírselo), solo *voy a robárselo y *destruírsela para que los pronombres de cada verbo se queden juntos). – user0721090601 Feb 1 '18 at 22:44
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DISCLAIMER: This is an uninvestigated answer, based only on experience.
Proceed with caution.

I believe all three sentences are correct, and each sentence has a subtle difference:

  • "Me voy a comprar algo": emphasis is on the action of leaving towards a place where you'll buy something, doesn't necesarilly need to be for yourself.
  • "Voy a comprarme algo": emphasis is on the action of buying something for yourself, this means you might already be at the shop where you'll be buying.
  • "Me voy a comprarme algo": no clear emphasis, you are implying that you are going to leave to go and buy something for yourself. this is basically a mix of the two previous options.

This is not an absolute truth though, depending on context options 1 and 2 could actually be swapt, which is rather inconvenient. In spoken language you would be able to better notice the difference thanks to entonation though.

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    The disclaimer is unnecessary. This is correct. – DGaleano Feb 2 '18 at 13:44
  • well, given the quality of answers i'm used to see on this site, it almost feels bad to give an answer like this, but i'm too lazy to look things up :P – Brian H. Feb 2 '18 at 13:45
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Both "me voy a comprar algo" and "voy a comprarme algo" mean the same. "Me voy a comprarme algo" is not correct at all, since you are using twice the reflexive pronoun.

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  • It is really incorrect (in all cases or in this particular case)? To me it just has emphasizes that what I'm going to buy is for me. It's true that you could not say "Me voy a marcharme a comprar un patalón", but "Me marcho a darme un homenaje a un spa" does not sounds as bad to me... – Diego Feb 1 '18 at 16:46
  • @Diego Me voy a marcharme a comprar… actually does work, but so long as we are using the verbs irse and marcharse with non-reflexive comprar. It doesn't allow the pronoun raising from a comprarse because marcharse a isn't a periphrasis (the a comprar just functions as a complement which can have its own pronouns and could be introduced equally with para). (And irse a marcharse isn't so weird actually: quelibroleo.com/archivos_capitulos/capitulo_9788484417637.pdf ) – user0721090601 Feb 1 '18 at 20:21
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    I'm sorry but I don't think the 3rd is incorrect. It translates "I'm leaving to buy something for myself" It is like the 1st sentence but on that "I'm leaving to buy something (for an unknown subject)" – DGaleano Feb 2 '18 at 13:40

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