Last weekend, the world of sports, specifically tennis, wrote a new page of its book of history. The Spanish player, Rafa Nadal and the Swiss one, Roger Federer, played their 9th Grand Slam’s final. The Australian Open was the tournament which we could delight in.

At this point, not many people thought we could see again this happening.  They both arrived at this final after their worst losing streak, due to injuries. However, that was not enough to deprive us of watching one of the best tennis games ever. Rafa did not win (3-2 for Federer) but we finally could hear again his popular ¡vamos! But what does it mean?

Vamos it’s a kind of imperative form of verb ir. The proper term should be vayamos (the present subjunctive for nosotros – we). Nevertheless, vamos has been fixed in Spanish language (lexicalized, in grammar slang); this phenomenon is called imperativos lexicalizados. Remember that imperative tense is the commonest way to express a command in any language. What makes this forms so special is that they lose their original meaning in order to indicate feelings or emotions. Let’s see some examples.

  • ¡Vamos!: literally, “Let’s go”, it often loses this movement sense for showing an idea of ánimo (encouragement). That’s why Rafa Nadal usually says: “¡vamos, Rafa!”: he encourages himself during his games.
  • ¡Anda!: literally, “walk”, we don’t mean somebody to walk. Imagine a friend of yours tells you that he’s just met Roger Federer in the street; a good answer from you could be: ¡anda! It’s a very popular way to show sorpresa (surprise).
  • ¡Anda ya!: a variation of the previous one. In this case we don’t exactly mean surprise, but incredulidad (incredulity, disbelief). ¿Has visto a Federer? ¡Anda ya! (Have you seen Federer? No way!).
  • ¡Vaya!: again the verb ir (to go). Now with the form of courtesy (usted), we can express lamentación (sorrow). ¿Tu hermano está en el hospital? ¡Vaya! (Is your brother in the hospital? Sorry). Moreover, we can mean other emotions if vaya is followed by a noun: ¡Vaya coche que te has comprado! (what a car you bought! – admiraciónadmiration); ¡vaya partido ha jugado mi equipo! 3-0 hemos perdido (what a game my team played! We lost 3-0 – enfado o decepción – annoyance or disappointment).
  • ¡Venga!: typical expression said by a father who is waiting for his children to be ready for going to school: ¡venga, que no llegamos! (come on! We’ll be late). We show apremio (urgency) here.
  • ¡Mira!: it’s a good way to llamar la atención (attract attention). Ej: ¡Mira, tienes que cambiar tu comportamiento! (Look, you need to change your behavior).
  • ¡Dale!: different emotions here: Enfado (annoyance), ¡y dale!, te he dicho mil veces que no toques eso (I’ve told you many times not to touch that); continuación y apremio (continuation and urgency): te ayudo a aparcar el coche: ¡dale, dale, dale, perfecto! (I help you park your car: go on, keep on doing that, perfect!).

In conclusion, we hope our students on will use this imperativos, not only playing tennis, but also in their daily life. ¡Venga, reserva ya una clase de español con nosotros por Skype! (come on! Reserve a Spanish lesson with us via Skype). If you want to try it first totally free, just click here. ¡Vamos, tú puedes hablar español como nosotros! (come on! You can speak Spanish just like us).


Nadal Japan Open 2011, by Christopher Johnson at Wikipedia.