How to Request Action by a Group That Includes Yourself

Either the Imperative Mood or 'Vamos A' May Be Used

Fugitivo bus in Nicaragua
¡Viajemos por bus! (Let's travel by bus! This photo was taken in Masaya, Nicaragua.). Photo by Alex Barth; licensed via Creative Commons.

Spanish has two main ways of making suggestions or commands to a group that includes the person speaking. Both of them can be used as the equivalent of the English "let's" in a sentence such as "Let's leave."

Imperative Mood

The most straightforward way is to use the first-person plural imperative mood, which takes the same form as the first-person plural form of the subjunctive mood. In regular -ar verbs, the ending is replaced by -emos, and in -er and -ir verbs, the ending is replaced by -amos:

  • Bailemos un vals. Let's dance a waltz.
  • Compremos una casa en España. Let's buy a house in Spain.
  • Hagamos un trato. Let's make a deal.
  • Tratemos de ser felices. Let's try to be happy.

If you're using the imperative form of a reflexive verb, the -emos ending becomes -émonos, and the -amos ending becomes -ámonos. In other words, the -nos ending is added to the verb, but the -s is dropped before the pronoun:

  • Levantémonos a las seis de la mañana. Let's get up at 6 a.m.
  • Lavémonos las manos. Let's wash our hands.
  • Riámonos un ratito. Let's laugh a little bit. (Réirse is an irregular verb.)

In the negative form, however, the pronoun comes before the verb: No nos mejoremos. Let's not improve ourselves.

Using 'Vamos A'

Probably more common than the imperative mood, and even easier to learn, is to use the first-person plural form of ir followed by a, i.e., "vamos a," followed by the infinitive:

  • Vamos a nadar. Let's go swimming.
  • Vamos a casarnos. Let's get married.
  • Vamos a estudiar. Let's study.
  • Vamos a viajar a Italia. Let's go to Italy.

You may note that "vamos a + infinitive" can also mean "we are going to + infinitive," so the first sample sentence above could also mean "We are going to swim." Indeed, "ir a + infinitive" is a very common substitute for the future tense in Spanish.

In the first-person plural, then, context will determine what is meant.

It is not uncommon when meaning "let's" to replace "vamos a" with simply "a." For example, "a ver" is a very common way of saying "let's see."

Another Meaning for 'Let Us'

When translating from English, do not confuse "let's" as a suggestion to the group with "let us" as a way of asking for permission. For example, one way you might say "let us help you" would be "Permítenos ayudarte," where the verb permitir is used in the third person (the person being addressed) rather than the first person (the people who want to help).