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I don't understand why people use vamos (present) to say "let's go", but not "vayamos" (imperative/subj. present).

Is there a special reason to use "vamos" (vámonos) instead of "vayamos" (vayámonos) to say "let's go" (let's leave)?

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    I never even realised that the imperative of "ir" is "vayamos" and not "vamos" :O – Brian H. Feb 26 '18 at 11:50
  • no es un duplicado!!! – iBug Feb 28 '18 at 1:30
  • Regarding the "correctness" described on the answers I've never seen anyone in Colombia saying "vayamos". It may exists in the language but nobody uses it here. The other two forms "vámonos" and "vamos" are used always. All spell checkers say vámonos is misspelled (and it is) but that is the way we all speak in Colombia (as always with minor exceptions.) – DGaleano Feb 28 '18 at 13:26
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    @iBug - When a new question is posed that appears to be basically equivalent to an existing one, it usually helps to edit the question so it's clearly distinguishable from the other one, and/or give a persuasive argument. I'm voting to close; but I'm open to considering an explanation or reasoning. – aparente001 Mar 1 '18 at 4:09
  • I actually think the problem here is that the similar, older question didn't have a clear, satisfying answer. I've tried to write one. If I haven't nailed it I hope others will make a stab at it. – aparente001 Mar 1 '18 at 4:10
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First of all, it appears as if the RAE does not include first person plural in the conjugation of the imperative (see conjugation of ir, click on the blue button "conjugar"), so when we are using vamos it is not actually an imperative form, but the subjunctive used with an exhortative value.

So the question is, why use the imperative form vamos instead of the correct subjunctive form vayamos?

Well, according to the Diccionario Panhispánico de dudas, ir, point 2:

The form vamos is, nowadays, the first person plural of the present indicative. [...] However, in medieval and classical Spanish it was, as well as vayamos, the form of the first person plural of the present subjunctive. [...]

As a vestige of its former meaning, the form vamos is still used with an exhortative aim more often than vayamos. [...] As a matter of fact, the form vayamos, with that meaning, has been almost relegated to mere literary discourse. [...]

TL;DR: To sum up, in medieval Spanish both vamos and vayamos were valid forms for the subjunctive, but only the former has been kept in modern Spanish for exhortative sentences.

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  • I had to look up exhortative! Now that I've double-checked, I feel even more strongly that this answer doesn't really help. – aparente001 Mar 1 '18 at 4:13
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    I have to disagree with the comment above. It's actually a topic I hadn't given much thought to, but your answer was clearly enlightening and I appreciate the fact that you took the time to answer this question with not only reasoned thought, but cited, reputable sources. Obviously, the original poster saw the value in your answer. He gave you the green check mark. Well done and well deserved. – Lisa Beck Mar 9 '19 at 2:01
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This passage from DPD explains why "vamos" is used as an alternative of "vayamos" for imperative, first person plural:

  1. La forma vamos es hoy la primera persona del plural del presente de indicativo: «Laureano y yo nos vamos al jardín» (Gallego Adelaida [Esp. 1990]); pero en el español medieval y clásico era, alternando con vayamos, forma de primera persona del plural del presente de subjuntivo: «Si vos queréys que vamos juntos, pongámoslo, luego, por obra» (Daza Antojos [Esp. 1623]). 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» (Cortázar Reunión [Arg. 1983]); la forma de subjuntivo vayamos, con este sentido, ha quedado casi relegada a la lengua literaria: «Vayámonos de aquí» (Amestoy Durango [Esp. 1989]). 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: «Tenemos una excelente relación [...]. Pero no es que vamos juntos para el cine» (Universal [Ven.] 3.9.96); debió decirse no es que vayamos.

The main reason is that it is a vestige of some medieval use. It is worth noting that, while "vamos" is validly used for imperative, it is wrong to use it as subjunctive.

  • Dale, vamos juntos al cine (= Dale, vayamos juntos al cine): CORRECT

  • No es que vamos juntos para el cine (better: No es que vayamos juntos al cine)

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  • What about the negative imperative that also uses subjunctive form? i.e. is "no vamos juntos al cine" right? – iBug Feb 26 '18 at 12:25
  • No, in negative you need the subjunctive: No vayamos juntos al cine, vayamos separados. – Gustavson Feb 26 '18 at 12:33
  • I don't think this really helps. It goes back into history unnecessarily, and it doesn't really get us any closer to why. – aparente001 Mar 1 '18 at 4:15
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    @aparente001 If you fail to see the importance of history in the development of a language, there will be many things you will be unable to explain. Like tradition, linguistic uses pass from one generation to another. There might be, in favor of "vamos", a reason of economy -- it's simply shorter and simpler than "vayamos". If both are allowed, why use the longer? Where its use is allowed as an alternative of "vayamos", it is simply preferred by the speaker, just as the present is usually preferred over the future in a sentence like: "Mañana vamos a la fiesta". – Gustavson Mar 1 '18 at 17:13

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