Is there any difference in meaning and usage between the two expressions below?

  • (me) voy de compras.
  • (me) voy a hacer compras.

According to https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/ir-de-compras-hacer-la-compra.140571/ , "ir de compras" implies that you're going from shop to shop, looking for what you want. Also, if I understood right, it is usually used for items like clothes/perfumes and not food/cleaning products. Notice that the second expression is "hacer compras", not "hacer la compra", which seemingly implies that you are buying food, cleaning products or other non-durable consumer goods.


The meaning is the same as far as I can tell, but in actual usage I've only ever encountered “(me) voy de compras”. This is my personal experience, though.

There's a difference between “voy de compras” and “voy a hacer compras” (with no reflexive pronoun) because the latter could conceivably be interpreted as “I'm going to shop for things; I will make purchases”, that is, with the verb “ir” being used as part of the periphrastic future.

With “voy de compras” there's no such ambiguity: it's present tense and it always means “I'm leaving home to go shopping now”. Indeed, if you wanted to make it future, you would have to say “Voy a ir de compras”.

“Voy hacer la compra” is what you would say when you've spoken about some purchase and now declare that you're indeed going to buy whatever it is you said you were to buy. Another possibility: my wife and I normally go once a month to a big supermarket and fill two shopping carts of stuff; to us this is “la compra del mes”. So “vamos a hacer la compra del mes” is a thing for us, and the expression is also readily understandable to others.

  • I haven't understood the difference in meaning you mentioned between "voy de compras" y "voy a hacer de compras". I thought "voy de compras" meant "I'm going to shop for things, I will make purchases", i.e.the final objective is to buy things, identically to "voy a hacer compras". Have I misunderstood it? – Alan Evangelista Aug 29 '20 at 2:49
  • The possible meanings of "hacer la compra" you mentioned (e.g. hacer la compra del mes) also exist in Portuguese and therefore are clear to me, but in the Word Reference link I referenced, people mentioned that the expression by itself (without any complement) idiomatically refers to buying food, cleaning products, etc. I wonder if that is a Spanish regionalism? – Alan Evangelista Aug 29 '20 at 2:53
  • I've just added a clarification to answer to your first comment. The difference is that whenever you have “ir” plus another verb, it's possible that the meaning is to show a future event (“voy a hacer” = I will do). However “ir de compras” has no such ambiguity; it's a fixed expression, a unity, and has the tense of the verb “ir”. – pablodf76 Aug 29 '20 at 14:56

"Ir de compras" is the same that "Ir a hacer compras". The difference may be is that you say "voy de compras" when you are "shopping", you don't know what you want, you are mostly visiting shops, you are expending your time in shops. If you say "voy a hacer las compras de la semana" it means you know what you want buy, and you must use the article "las". Also you can use the article "unas", and it means that you need buy something, but you don't want to be specific. "Hacer la compra" is most used when you use visit the same place, each day, and buy the same stuff (bread, milk, etc), but it's colloquial, not many persons say that.

First situation, "ir de compras"

  • W1: "Estoy de compras" (I'm in a mall visiting shops).
  • W2: "¿Has visto algo?" (Have you seen something interesting?).

Second situation, "ir a hacer compras" "hacer compras" "ir a comprar"

  • M1: "Estoy haciendo las compras" (I'm in the supermarket buying our food).
  • W1: "No olvides los huevos" (Don't forget buy eggs).
  • I'm a little confused because you have mentioned "ir a hacer compras" in the beginning, but have given only examples with "ir a hacer las compras" and "hacer la compra" afterwards. Isn't "hacer compras" (without any article) a usual expression in Spanish? – Alan Evangelista Aug 31 '20 at 15:41
  • "Ir a" + verb is similar to the expression in English, "to be" + "going to" + something, it's also a way that you can use to construct future tense. In Spanish indicates mostly an immediate future, or more determination to do something. You can use "ir a" + verb, not only with the verb "comprar", but with any action. I didn't show you examples with "ir a", because I didn't realize that you also need understand that part. But it can confuse you a little. The structure of the periphrasis is like: Voy a ir de compras. (yes we repeat the verb "ir") Voy a hacer unas compras. – Javier Aug 31 '20 at 18:17
  • "Hacer compras" without article, is used to talk about the action. But in the Spanish grammar, when you talk about something new, is necessary use the article "un, una, uno, unas", and "el, la, los, las" if we know what we are talking about. – Javier Aug 31 '20 at 18:39

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