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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

¡Vamos! Ten easy but very useful ways to use this great word in Spanish

You may know it as Rafa Nadal’s battle cry, but this verb is used loads in daily spoken Spanish. Here are some of its most common uses to help you sound like a local.

¡Vamos! Ten easy but very useful ways to use this great word in Spanish
Rafa Nadal and his fans both shout ¡Vamos!, one to celebrate and the other to motivate. But vamos has plenty more uses in Spanish. Photo: Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

This may be one of the first words you learnt in Spanish after hola and cerveza

If you didn’t know already, vamos is the first person plural form of the verb to go in Spanish (ir). 

It’s the same in the present tense – nosotros vamos (we go)  and in the imperative -¡Vamos! (go or let’s go). 

But vamos is used in all kinds of circumstances and in expressions by Spaniards, here are the most useful and common ones. 

¡Vamos! – Yes!

As we mentioned earlier, if you’ve ever watched Spanish tennis star Rafa Nadal celebrate a point, you will have seen that he sometimes shouts ¡Vamos!. It’s like exclaiming ‘yes!’ or ‘get in!’ when you win at something.

Example: 

¡Vamos! ¡Qué golazo!

Yes! What a goal!

Vamos – Let’s go or Let’s do it

Obviously it’s primary usage as an imperative verb is very handy. If you want to instigate the people with you to go somewhere or get a move on, you can simply say vamos. Equally, if you want to motivate someone you’d say ¡vamos!.

Example:

Vamos, que se hace tarde.

Come on/Let’s go, it’s getting late.

or

¡Vamos, equipo! ¡Qué podeis ganar! 

Come one team, let’s do it! You can win!

¿Vamos? – Shall we go?

If you want to ask people if you should all go, simply change the intonation to make it a question.

Example:

Hay un concierto el viernes. ¿Vamos?

There’s a concert on Friday. Shall we go?

Vamos a…- We’re going to…

Add ‘a’ and then the place you’re heading to, and you can express in the most commonly used way in Spanish where you’re going to

Example:

Vamos a la playa. ¿Te apuntas?

We’re going to the beach. Want to join us?

¡Vamos! – Seriously!

Vamos can also be used as an interjection at the start of a sentence to summarise or emphasise a point. 

Example:

¡Vamos, qué tontería!

Seriously, how stupid!

or

Vamos, que si no le pago me va a echar del equipo.

So yes, if I don’t pay him he’s going to kick me out of the team.

Ahí vamos – Just keep on trucking

Here’s a reply people used when asked how they are or how things are going and they want to denote that they’re still ordinary, boring, challenging or negative in some way.

¿Qué cómo me va? Ahí vamos, lo de siempre.

How are things, you ask? Same as always, just keep trucking.

Al paso que vamos – At this rate

Here’s a handy expression to use when things are moving very slowly.

Example:

Al paso que vamos no llegamos hasta pasado mañana.

At this rate we won’t get there until the day after tomorrow.

Así no vamos a ninguna parte – We’re getting nowhere like this

This is usually used metaphorically in an argument or situation to suggest that things aren’t progressing or being solved.

Example:

Así no vamos a ninguna parte, primero tienes que dejar de fumar.

We’re getting nowhere like this, first you’ve got to quit smoking.

¿Qué le vamos a hacer? – What can you do?

Usually accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders, this vamos expression is used when saying that nothing can be done or changed.

Example:

¿Qué le vamos a hacer? Después de todo, es su padre.

What can you? He’s her father after all. 

¡Adónde vamos a parar! – What will become of us? or When will this end?

If you want to rhetorically ask when a bad situation will come to an end, this is what you shout out in Spanish. 

Example:

La factura de la luz es más cara todos los meses. ¡A dónde vamos a parar!

The electricity bill is more expensive every month. When will this end?

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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Word of the Day: ‘Incendio’

You’re probably familiar with this word but do you know how it’s different from ‘fuego’ (the Spanish word for fire)?

Spanish Word of the Day: 'Incendio'

The word fuego is probably one of the first words that Spanish language learners learn. 

It’s the most general word to refer to fire, as in the product of combustion.

It can be used when asking someone for a lighter (¿tienes fuego?), or the fire that burns on a bonfire or a campfire (el fuego de la hoguera), the flames of a fire (las llamas del fuego) and even in the sense of gunshots when someone shouts ‘hold your fire! (¡Alto el fuego!).

And it’s also the first word people will exclaim if a fire breaks out – ¡Fuego! (Fire!).

But when a fire is out of control, Spanish speakers rarely use the word fuego to describe this conflagration (yes, that’s a formal way of referring to an extensive fire in English). 

Instead they will call it un incendio (a fire) or el incendio (the fire). If it’s a wildfire or forest fire, they call it un incendio forestal.

That’s not to say you can’t use el fuego to refer to the fire in the general sense, but technically speaking if it’s a fire that’s broken out in a building or a forest fire that’s raging you should use the word incendio.  

There’s also the verb incendiar, to burn down or set fire to, in the active sense of someone choosing to burn something which sees the flames spread. You can also say prender fuego.

Or in the passive sense, as in a forest catching fire, incendiarse.

An example of the word ‘incendio’ in the Spanish press, with the headline reading “Spain’s fires leave two dead and more than 30,000 hectares destroyed”.

Examples:

Un incendio forestal en Barcelona ha arrasado miles de hectáreas de bosque.

A wildfire in Barcelona has destroyed thousands of hectares of forest. 

Los bomberos intentaron apagar el fuego en un edificio de la Gran Vía pero al final el incendio se cobró tres vidas.

The firefighters tried to extinguish a fire in a building on Gran Vía but in the end the blaze claimed three lives. 

Es un pirómano, ha incendiado un hermoso bosque porque le gusta ver cómo las cosas arden. 

He’s a pyromaniac, he set fire to a beautiful forest because he likes to see things burn.

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