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How to conjugate Ir in Spanish

The verb Ir is one of the most irregular verbs in Spanish. Let’s learn its many conjugations, including the preterite, the subjunctive, and the future tense, using a memory palace.

Full Podcast Episode


Let’s take a journey through the many weird conjugations of Ir.

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Today we’re going to learn the rest of our essential conjugations of Ir, including the preterite and the subjunctive.

This episode is going to be pretty memory-palace-heavy, so if you’d rather not stick through these stories, you can look up the preterite tense of Ir yourself and then skip to the 10-minute mark in this episode. However, Ir is such an extremely irregular verb that we’ve found this memory palace to be extremely valuable for helping students learn the many different conjugations, so I recommend giving this a try.

We’ve already learned the present tense forms: “I go” is voy, “they go” is van, “he/she/it goes” is va,“you go” is vas, and “we go” is vamos.

Let’s imagine that this voyage you’re going on is not a hike in the wilderness, but instead a long tour through a strange office building. This building is another one of the many odd businesses in the world of our memory palaces, along with the Ser carnival house, the Estar magic shop, and the Haber clothing shop. Here at Ir, your mission, and the mission of the pandas and everyone else with you, is to find the office of the Ir doctor who claims to run his operations in this mysterious place. But the hallways are so long and dark that going to the Ir doctor in this world is like going on a huge quest.

So you enter the Ir doctor’s place, with the pandas in their little van and your friend on the hovercraft. You call out, “How far is it to get to the doctor’s office?” And you hear a very distant voice call back, va! It sounds kind of like “far”: va. That’s the third-person conjugation for the doctor himself. For example,

You(formal) go to that place.

Usted va a ese lugar.

Now let’s learn the preterite tense. There’s a loud, fast pitter patter of feet and the doctor appears. He says, “I’ll lead you to my office! Follow me! But wait… first would you like to buy a souvenir?”

This is frustrating, because you’ve been excited for this voyage down the dark hall, so you’re not thrilled to see the doctor open a side door. He steps into an extremely dark closet and then turns on a red light, which shows that inside the closet are a few items you might find in a doctor’s office: A large scale on the left and several boxes of latex gloves on the right. Hanging from the door itself are several stethoscopes of various sizes. All of these items have price tags, as if anyone visiting this strange doctor might want to buy a medical souvenir.

All the items in this scene are very important, because they’re going to help us learn the extremely complicated preterite forms of Ir. Remember that when we learned Estar, we learned the preterite forms at the red shelves; specifically we learned estuve and estuvo. Well, this is another “red” area in our memory palace, and all five of the forms we’ll learn here are very frequently used. So make sure you can picture it in your mind’s eye: You’re looking into a dark closet lit by red light; on the right side is a shelf covered with boxes of latex gloves; on the left is a big doctor’s scale with a hefty price tag; and in the entrance, hanging from the door itself, are a bunch of stethoscopes that are also for sale.

The Ir doctor runs to the scale and asks you if you’re interested in buying it. He then proceeds to weigh himself on the scale, fiddling with the little sliding pieces, and showing off its features.

But you’re not interested; you didn’t expect the doctor to lead you into this closet. In your opinion, he went to the wrong place. So you respond, “No, sir, you went to the wrong place. We want to go down the long, dark hall.” But of course, you’re distracted by the fact that the doctor is weighing himself on this scale, so you can’t get the word “weigh” out of your head. So when you say “he went” or “you went” or “usted went”, the word you say is fue, spelled f-u-e. The stress of this word sounds like “weigh”, but it starts with F.

In fact, all of the preterite forms of Ir start with F, which is pretty bizarre considering that the name of the verb is Ir and all of the present-tense forms start with V. But bear with me for a few minutes; if you can use this red closet to learn the preterite conjugations, you’ll be able to remember Ir as one coherent verb very soon.

To your dismay, your friends don’t back you up on your desire to leave the closet and go down the hall. The pandas have hopped out of their little van and run over to the latex gloves on the right side of the closet. They put their paws all over the merchandise and try to wear the gloves. It’s not working very well, because human gloves don’t really fit a panda’s paws very well. Try to picture these pandas in the red light trying to wear latex gloves, and remember the stressed syllable “wear”, which is the stress of their conjugation: fueron.

Let’s practice fue and fueron with a few sentences.

She went to the house that day.

Ella fue a la casa ese día.

The boys went to the place.

Los chicos fueron al lugar.

You(formal) didn’t go, but they(m) DID go.

Usted no fue, pero ellos sí fueron.

So you would use the word fueron to describe a group of pandas who went somewhere, and you would use fue to say that he, she, it, or usted went somewhere. What about your friend with the curly hair?

You’re disappointed to see that he, too, has decided to go into the closet. His own motivation is a very curious one: He flies his hovercraft over to a trash can in front of you, on the far end of the closet, and points his “air rays” down at the paper waste inside it. The paper starts to melt and flatten. “What are you doing?” you ask. He just smiles back as the trash continues to melt and compress under his hovercraft. “Get out of the waste basket!” you say. “You’re wasting time!”

“It’s not a waste basket!” He responds. “It’s a ‘wheest’ basket!”

Maybe he knows something you don’t know about this basket. One way or another, the hovercraft has stopped making a hissing, “ssss” sound and is now making more of an “eeee” sound. And the curly-haired kid says that he’s turning the waste into “wheest”, whatever that means.

If you can remember the stressed syllable “wheest”, it will help you remember fuiste, which is the strange conjugation for the informal second person: “you went”. Like all the other words, it starts with F, but it stresses “wheest”.

For example:

You went to the place?

¿Tú fuiste al lugar?

Next, something crazy happens. You hear your tall and short friends say “whee! whee!” You look at them, and they’re swinging from the stethoscopes on the door next to you. You fully expect something to break, which will be an expensive mess for all of you to pay for. But then again, it does look like fun. Suddenly one of them grabs you, and you find yourself swinging from a stethoscope on the door as well. And you can’t help yourself — you find yourself shouting “whee!” along with the rest of them.

This crazy swinging from the stethoscopes represents the words fui and fuimos, both of which have a stress on “whee”. Fui is “I went”, and of course fuimos is “we went”.

Now let’s pause for a second. Do you have this whole scene laid out for you, in your mind’s eye? Right in front of you is the curly-haired kid on the hovercraft, with his “wheest” basket, representing fuiste. To the left is the doctor on the scale, representing fue. To the right, the pandas are trying on gloves, and that’s fueron. And then you and your friends are at the stethoscopes, with fui and fuimos.

Let’s do a quick quiz on these.

What is the word for the third person singular, “he went”, “she went”, or “usted went”?...


What about “I went”?...


What’s the word for “they went”?...


How about “we went”?...


And then what’s the word for “you went”, in an informal voice?...


OK, let’s put all of these words into some simple sentence contexts.

She went to the house.

Ella fue a la casa.

We went from the place to the house.

Fuimos del lugar a la casa.

Did you go from that house to the place?

¿Fuiste de esa casa al lugar?

That day they went to my house.

Ese día fueron a mi casa.

I went to that place one time.

Yo fui a ese lugar una vez.

The subjunctive forms of Ir are all based on the stressed syllable vaya, spelled v-a-y-a. This sounds kind of like “fire”, so if you want to build out a memory palace for this, imagine that the back of this strange office building is on fire. So we have the following forms:

yo: vaya

él, ella, o usted: vaya

tú: vayas

ellos: vayan

nosotros: vayamos

Let’s practice these with a few sentence examples.

They want her to go to the place.

They want que ella vaya al lugar.

I hope that we go to the house.

I hope que vayamos a la casa.

Espero que vayamos a la casa.

I want them(f) to go to my house.

I want que ellas vayan a mi casa.

Quiero que ellas vayan a mi casa.

How good that you’re going to that place!

¡Qué bueno que vayas a ese lugar!

He wants me to go to this place.

He wants que yo vaya a este lugar.

Quiere que yo vaya a este lugar.

We’ll get more practice with this on today’s quiz, but if you want to drill the subjunctives specifically, remember you can always spend more time on anything specific you need at LCSPodcast.com/44.

Our last two forms of Ir are quite simple because they follow patterns we’ve already learned for Ser and Estar. So remember that for the future of Estar, we had estará and estaré. And for the future of Ser, we had será and seré. Well, as you might predict, the most common future tense forms of Ir are irá, meaning “he/she/it will go”, and iré, meaning “I will go”.

Let’s practice with a simple quiz:

Will he go to that place?

¿Irá a ese lugar?

I’ll go to your house that day.

Iré a tu casa ese día.

You(formal) will go to your house?

¿Usted irá a su casa?

I know we’ve covered a LOT of forms of Ir today. I highly recommend the exercise of getting out a blank piece of paper and drawing out a diagram of all the different tenses and moods of this verb to make sure they’re all solid. Once you feel like you have a great grasp of all the important conjugations of this extremely irregular verb, feel free to go on to today’s final quiz.

We aren’t going now, we already went that day.

No vamos ahora, ya fuimos ese día.

Why aren’t you going now if you already went that time?

¿Por qué no vas ahora si ya fuiste esa vez?

He will go when she goes.

Él irá cuando ella vaya.

She hasn’t gone to the place where they went.

Ella no ha ido al lugar where ellos fueron.

Ella no ha ido al lugar donde ellos fueron.

I’ll go, but I don’t want you to go.

Yo iré, pero no I want que tú vayas.

Yo iré, pero no quiero que tú vayas.

They weren’t going to go, but you went.

No iban a ir, pero tú fuiste.

He went like we were going to go.

Él fue como nosotros íbamos a ir.

I DID go, but we didn’t go.

Yo sí fui, pero nosotros no fuimos.

You all are that way.

Ustedes son así.

You weren’t going to go to my house.

No ibas a ir a mi casa.

You all are going?

¿Ustedes van?

Will he go when I go?

¿Él irá cuando yo vaya?

 I was going to go to the place, but I got unwell.

 Iba a ir al lugar, pero estuve mal.

He is going now, but he didn’t go that time.

Él va ahora, pero no fue esa vez.

When they went to that place I went home.

Cuando ellos fueron a ese lugar yo fui a casa.

Right now we’re going there!

¡Ahora estamos yendo there!

¡Ahora estamos yendo allí!

He wants us to go to Arizona that day.

He wants que vayamos a Arizona ese día.

Quiere que vayamos a Arizona ese día.

I wasn’t going to go to his house.

No iba a ir a su casa.

If I go to the place now, I want them to go with me.

Si voy al lugar ahora, I want que vayan conmigo.

Si voy al lugar ahora, quiero que vayan conmigo.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/44.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Michael Agudelo. Our music was provided by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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