In short – ‘va’ is the third person singular of the verb ‘ir’ and literally means ‘he / she goes’. In Mexican Spanish, however, ‘va’ is also an informal way to express agreement, often replacing the word ‘ok’.
This informal use of ‘va’ as an affirmative response is pretty commonplace and you’re sure to hear your Mexican friends (particularly the younger generations) slinging it around if you keep your ears to the ground.
Just be warned that this use is kind of slangy, so it shouldn’t be used in more formal situations (when you first meet “la suegra” (mother-in-law), for example!).
Uses / meanings of ‘va’ in Spanish
‘Va’ can be used in the following ways –
- As an affirmative response / To express agreement (similar in meaning to ‘ok’)
- Used at the end of a sentence to form a question
- As the third person singular of the verb ‘ir’, literally ‘he / she goes’
As an affirmative response / To express agreement
In this context, ‘va’ can be used as a synonym of ‘ok’. It can be used in any situation in which you’d use ‘ok’ as an affirmative response.
The only real difference between the two is that ‘va’ is a little more informal than ‘ok’, so it’s obviously best avoided in more formal situations!
Don’t make the mistake that I did a few years back and start to use ‘va’ indiscriminately …
… Erika actually gave me a bit of a “talking to” when ‘va’ slipped out of my mouth a few too many times during our first formal dinner with her mum!
Here’s the word in action –
Carolina – Se me antoja ir al cine hoy.
Guillermo – Va, ¡vámonos!
Carolina – I feel like going to the cinema today!
Guillermo – Ok, let’s go!
Alberto – Vamos por un helado, amigo.
Manuel – ¡Va!
Albert – Let’s go for an ice cream, bro.
Manuel – Ok!
Erika’s note – if you’d like to learn more ways to say ‘ok‘ in Spanish, then be sure to check out our magnum opus on the subject … I think we managed to list 35!
Used at the end of a sentence to form a question
‘Va’ can also be affixed to the end of a sentence to mean something along the lines of ‘ok?’ or ‘got it?’.
It’s normally used to check understanding or to make sure that the listener agrees with what´s being said.
Again, this use of ‘va’ is informal, so should only be use with friends or relatives.
Let’s look at some examples –
Voy a comprar leche y un yogurt, ¿va?
I’m going to buy some milk and a yogurt, ok?
Le tienes que echar más crema a la salsa. ¿Va?
You need to add more cream to the sauce. Got it?
As the third person singular of the verb ‘ir’
The only universally accepted use of the word ‘va’ in the Spanish-speaking world is as a conjugation of the verb ‘ir’.
‘Va’ is the third person singular of ‘ir’ and literally translates to ‘he / she goes’.
Mi hijo va a la escuela diario.
My son goes to school every day.
Va a beisbol los jueves.
She goes to baseball every Thursday.
It’s also the (formal) second person singular of ‘ir’ (or the “usted” form), which is basically a more polite way of saying ‘you’ or ‘tú’ –
¿Va a bajar aquí?
Are you getting off here?
Me imagino que va a descansar esta tarde.
I assume you’re taking the afternoon off.
‘Va’ is said like ‘bah’ in English.
/ bah /
‘Va que va’ meaning
‘Va que va’ is essentially another synonym of ‘ok’, but only when used as an affirmative response. It can be translated as either ‘ok’, ‘sure’ or even ‘right on’, depending on the context.
You can think of ‘va que va’ as a longer version of ‘va’, as they mean exactly the same thing.
You’re certain to surprise your Mexican friends if you start whipping out this little gem of a phrase!
Gaby – ¿Qué tal si tomamos unas cervezas mañana?
Isis – ¡Va que va!
Gaby – Are you up for a few beers tomorrow?
Isis – Sure!
‘Voy’ / ‘vamos’ / ‘van’ in Spanish
All of the above words are present tense conjugations of the verb ‘ir’.
‘Voy’ is the 1st person singular conjugation, ‘vamos’ is the 1st person plural (‘we’) conjugation, and ‘van’ is the third person plural (‘they’) conjugation.
I’ve conjugated ‘ir’ below for your convenience –
‘Cómo va‘ / ‘Cómo te va‘ (and similar expressions) in English
This can be used to ask someone how something is going.
The structure is cómo va + noun –
¿Cómo va la tarea?
How are you getting on with your homework?
¿Cómo va todo?
Cómo te va
This literally translates to ‘how’s it going’ in English.
It’s another useful little expression to have up your sleeve, especially if you’ve got stuck in a ‘qué tal’ rut!
Barbara – Hola tío, ¿cómo te va?
Ramon – Todo muy bien, gracias.
Barbara – Hey Uncle Ramon, how’s it going?
Ramon – All good, thanks!
Erika often uses this unassuming little phrase to mean ‘obvio‘ or ‘well, duh‘ (accompany with sarcastic tone for best results).
A good English translation would be something like ‘come off it‘.
Erika – ¿Le quitaste la funda de la almohada?
Ruperto – No, ¡no fui yo!
Erika – No, qué va.
Erika – Did you take the pillowcase off the pillow?
Ruperto – No, it wasn’t me!
Erika – Come off it!
This literally translates to ‘there goes’ and it can be used in a similar way to the English.
¡Ahí va Jorge!
There goes Jorge!
¡Ahí va mi dignidad!
There goes my dignity!
Hopefully you’ll now be able to understand and use both ‘va’ and ‘va que va’ the next time you want to flex your Spanish speaking muscles!
Just remember that neither are formal Spanish, so don’t make the same mistake as yours truly and use them the first time you meet the mother-in-law!